The World Health Organisation has asked India to participate in its electromagnetic field (EMF) projects, as myths about the impact of mobile phone tower radiation on public health are widespread in the country.

The advice came from Mike Repacholi, former head of the EMF Task Force at WHO, during his recent visit to study mobile phone tower radiation in Mumbai.

The scenario, he said, was the same in metropolitan cities, including the National Capital Region. Prof. Repacholi made a series of suggestions to the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) and the Health Ministry.

He recommended the formation of an inter-agency committee of all departments responsible for EMF to discuss how best to deal with health issues. “Public concern has been raised across the country because the government has remained silent on this sensitive issue,” he said. Prof. Repacholi observed that “the people need health and other departments to be vigilant and provide advice, otherwise mischief-mongers will succeed in creating a scare about unfounded myths.”

WHO has been investigating the health effects of electromagnetic fields for 18 years. The EMF project noted in September: “Despite extensive research, to date there is no evidence to conclude that exposure to low-level electromagnetic fields is harmful to human health.”

The limits in international standards have not changed for over 15 years because no research has found any health effects below these levels. Prof. Repacholi has said there needs to be research on the effect of mobile phones on children. Studies conducted so far have not shown that they are more sensitive to EMF than adults. However, more research was needed to confirm this observation. Prof. Repacholi has asked India to open a website that explains EMF and its health effects, describes the standards and how they are derived.

According to him, there must be a government spokesperson on EMF who can respond to media questions and issue fact sheets and press statements. “The government should speak with one voice on this sensitive issue and provide all the information on EMF people need,” he said.