The current population of India clocks at 1.3 billion. The number of mobile subscription crossed 1 billion figure in October 2015 and the count has increased to 1.03 billion as of May 2016, according to the country’s telecom regulator. Mobile phones have become a need in people’s life for communication as well as other day-to-day activities. With the growing usage, the number of mobile towers in India has reached 400,000 which is expected to increase by 3% over the next three to five years.
Since the mobile phones have become a necessity in this communication era, mobile towers are mushrooming like never before. We, however, are ignoring the exposure of the electromagnetic field (EMF) emitted by the towers and the phones. According to a report by WHO, the EMF produced are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as serious health hazards. It is believed that the radiofrequency waves emitted from these towers are seriously harmful. However, despite many studies conducted in the last two decade, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone or towers, reports WHO. In fact, the another well-known association from Germany, known as ICNIRP, claims that in spite some uncertainty in this area, the recent evidences completely debunk the myth that mobile phone usage can cause brain tumours in adults.
Role of the Government
India has adopted one of the most stringent EMF exposure norms in the world according to a report by Department of Telecommunications, India.
The norms for the Mobile Towers are:
- EMF exposure limit (Base Station Emissions) is lowered to 1/10th of the existing ICNIRP exposure level effective from 1st September 2012.
- Telecom Enforcement Resource & Monitoring (TERM) Cells of DOT have been entrusted with the job of conducting an audit on the shelf of certification furnished by the service providers. TERM Cell shall carry out test audit up to 10% of the BTS site on a random basis and in all cases where there is a public complaint.
- Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC) has revised the Test Procedure for measurement of EMF for verification of EMF compliance for BTS towers in accordance with new standards effective from 1st September 2012.
- For non-compliance of EMF standards, a penalty of Rs. 5 lakh is liable to be levied per BTS per service provider.
The norms for Mobile Handsets are:
- All the new designs of mobile handsets shall comply with the SAR values of 1.6 W/kg averaged over 1 gram of human tissue w.e.f. 1st September 2012.
- Since 1st September 2013, only the mobile handsets with revised SAR value of 1.6 W/kg had been permitted to be manufactured or imported in India.
- Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) value information display on the mobile handsets like IMEI display.
- All cell phone handsets sold in the market in India shall comply with relevant standards and shall be available in hand free mode.
- Mobile handsets manufactured and sold in India or imported from other countries are being checked on a random basis for compliance of SAR limit since TEC SAR Laboratory was set up at the end of 2012.
While the Government of India is keeping a check on reduced exposure, we would like to debunk some myths by providing the facts revolving around the existence of mobile towers and mobile phones.
There are other ways as well which help in reducing the exposure like limiting the number and length of calls, using the phone in areas of good reception, distancing the phone from the body, using a headset to keep the phone away from the head. However, no adverse health effects due to mobile towers or mobile phones have been established till date.
Need for the Towers and Mobiles
On the other hand, we need these mobile towers to help India grow and for a better connected India. Most of the work these days depends on voice calls and the internet, for which the mobile towers are much needed. Without these mobile towers the whole communication system and transactions will come to a halt. In fact, in an era of digital communication, we need a number of towers for a better and faster connectivity. Out of the 400,000 towers, only 700 are standalone 3G and 4G towers. In India, there are 367 million mobile internet users, and the figure is expected to reach 400 million by 2017. Thus, the connectivity is solely dependent on these towers.
To sum it all up, no established report suggests the use of mobile phones or presence of mobile towers have any adverse health effect. It is, however, suggested that we should be very cautious about the radiations and the usage. With the increasing number of mobile handsets and towers around us, the exposure towards the radiation will also increase. It is, therefore, always a better idea to be cautious and prevent hazards.