The Union government finally seems to have woken up to the health hazards related to radiation from mobile towers and handsets. The Ministry of Communications and IT is considering a high-level study to find out the level of electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation from towers and handsets in order to frame stricter regulations to rein in erring operators and handset manufacturers.

“It is high time we addressed the issue of radiation, as strong objections have been raised by experts and civil society over the uncontrolled spread of mobile towers and import of cheap handsets that could have serious impact on the health of people. I will soon be meeting health and telecom experts to evolve a strong monitoring mechanism for the same,” Minister of State for Communications and IT Sachin Pilot told TheHindu.

The government was considering commissioning a detailed study on the issue by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Indian conditions were not similar to those in the West.

Mr. Pilot said:

“We need to look at things in different perspective. While European nations have just three to five operators, in India the number of operators now stands at 15.

“Consider the massive growth of towers...we already have around 4.5-lakh towers and many more are being added to meet the demand of almost 65-crore mobile subscribers, which is growing at 1.5-crore every month, the highest in the world.

“While European nations and the U.S. have very strict monitoring mechanism for both mobile towers and phones, we are still to come out with proper regulations on the issue.”

Experts say a continuous 20-minute contact between the human ear and mobile phone increases temperature of blood flowing through a user's brain, which could be dangerous, while high levels of radiation from towers can affect lives of people living around it.

Mr. Pilot said though mobile operators, their associations and mobile phone manufactures have been claiming that radiation levels in the country were under prescribed limited, independent agencies have reported gross violation of the set standards. “As prolonged exposure to electromagnetic radiation can cause serious health problems, we need to address the issue now before it becomes a menace…and it is all the more necessary keeping in mind the growth of Indian telecom industry.”

Though India has so far not set any radiation exposure standards, the proposed standards by various government agencies is still many times higher than that in the U.S. and many European countries.

In the case of handsets, the West has set up strict standards for ‘specific absorption rate' (SAR) — the amount of radiation absorbed by the body while using a mobile phone. Companies manufacturing mobile phones have to disclose the SAR.

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