Alarmed by the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) report highlighting that mobile phone users may be at increased risk from brain cancer, the Centre on Saturday said it would come soon out with stricter radiation norms for mobile handsets and towers. It has also decided to devise a better mechanism to monitor radiation from towers and ensure sale of safer handsets.
“We have been sensitive to the issue of possible health-related effects of radiation emissions from mobile towers and phones. An expert group has already recommended that the government should revisit radiation guidelines for mobile towers and adopt guidelines for radiation emission by cell phones. We are working on it and soon come out with fresh guidelines to address possible health hazards from mobile towers and handsets,” Minister of State for Communications and I.T. Sachin Pilot told The Hindu .
“While telecom is a huge success story in India, we have to ensure that any possible health-related effects of radiation emitted by mobile phones and towers are reflected in the guidelines. The final guidelines would take into account the best global benchmarks and scientific evidence on the subject,” he said.
Mr. Pilot said the Department of Telecommunications was already carrying out a special drive to ensure that all mobile towers emit radiation as per prescribed limit. “Till March 31, 2011, over 5.88 lakh out of 6 lakh base stations had been self-certified to meet radiation standards. Each non-complying tower carries a penalty of Rs. 5 lakh. We have carried out necessary amendments in license conditions mandating self-certification radiation levels of towers to ensure compliance with the WHO-endorsed guidelines of International Commission for Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) adopted by India,” the Minister added.
Last year, Mr. Pilot had held consultations on the subject with multiple stakeholders both in the government and the private sector. As a follow-up, the DoT had set up an Inter-Ministerial Group comprising experts from the DoT, the Ministry of Health, the Department of Biotechnology, the Ministry of Environment & Forests and the Indian Council of Medical Research, to evaluate the evidence, revisit radiation guidelines for mobile towers and adopt guidelines for radiation emission by cell phones.
In its report, Inter-Ministerial Group has recommended revision of radiation limits for mobile handsets, besides making declaration of radiation level on each mobile mandatory. For towers, it said radiation norms should be ten times stricter than the existing ones.
The WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently said radio-frequency electromagnetic fields generated by mobile handsets are “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
The report is based on review of evidence coming from epidemiological studies pointing to an increased incidence of glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer.