Addressing the consultative committee meeting of the ministry, Milind Deora, Minister of State for Communications & Information Technology, asserted that India is one of the very few countries in the world with the toughest EMF radiation standards, not only for mobile towers but also for mobile handsets from September 1, 2012 onwards. 

The subject of the meeting was electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation from mobile towers and handsets. 

The Department of Telecom (DoT) gave a presentation on the subject, through which members were informed that based on the recommendations of the Inter Ministerial Committee constituted by DoT in the year 2010, the limiting reference levels of electromagnetic radiation from mobile towers has been reduced to 1/10th of the limit prescribed by the ICNIRP with effect form 01.09.2012. It was also informed that the committee has also recommended adoption of Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) limit to 1.6watt/Kg (averaged over 1 gm of tissue). Thus, all new designs of mobile handsets are to comply with the SAR level of 1.6 Watt/Kg averaged over a mass of 1 gram tissue w.e.f. 1st September, 2012. 

A revision of existing standards is likely to happen soon

India among nations with toughest EMF radiation standards (Image credit: Getty Images)

During the presentation, it was stated that the issue of health hazards from the radiation of mobile phone towers/networks has been in the limelight for quite some time. In this regard, several studies have been conducted in different countries under the aegis of World Health Organization (WHO). There is no conclusive scientific evidence of adverse health effects due to RF emission from mobile phone towers. The scientific studies have been unable to find a direct link between exposure of radio frequency radiation and health related issues. Since the effects on human beings are to be studied over a long period of time, further studies are going on around the world. 

Members of Parliament attending the meeting raised a number of issues. A large number of members were concerned with the health hazards of electro magnetic radiation from mobile towers and handsets, and also the effect on flora and fauna, especially birds. One member stated that as per some environmentalists, the egg of the sparrow is not hatching due to this radiation. It was also suggested that the ministry should have a study undertaken as to whether mobile networks and vanishing species of some birds are co-related. A member also enquired as to whether those operating walkie-talkies were taking clearances from the environment ministry. Members also suggested that the ministry must prepare a plan of study as to whether any mutations could occur as a result of these radiations. Concerns were also raised about radiation levels of imported sets, especially those coming in through the grey market. 

Deora said that with the standards having been notified, all handsets, Indian and foreign, have to comply with the prescribed radiation levels. He also informed the members that as regards the study of harmful effects of radiation on flora and fauna, the Department of Science & Technology (DST) has constituted a committee on 01.10.2012 under the Chairmanship of Dr. N.K.Ganguly, former Director General (ICMR), having representative from: IIT Chennai, Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, Lucknow,  ICMR, Ministry of Health, Department of Telecom, Ministry of Environment & Forest and DST. 

This committee is to examine the harmful effects from cellphone towers on the population living in the vicinity and to develop a frame of reference for calling REP for scientific assessment of health hazard and adverse impact on ecology in Indian Specific Context. 

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