DOT is­sues stricter tele­com ra­di­a­tion stan­dards

Car­ry­ing for­ward the 2010 TE­HELKA ex­posé on ra­di­a­tion caused by cell phone tow­ers, the DOT has is­sued guide­lines that binds tele­com op­er­a­tors to fol­low norms or face penalty

Tehelka - - INVESTIGATION -

IN THE in­ter­est of pub­lic health, the Depart­ment of Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion ( DoT) has en­forced stricter Elec­tro Magnetic Fre­quency ( EMF) Ra­di­a­tion Stan­dards for cell phone tow­ers and mo­bile hand­sets with ef­fect from 1 Septem­ber. The new guide­lines are expected to re­duce ra­di­a­tion emis­sion from tele­com tow­ers to about 1/10th of the present lev­els, with non-com­pli­ance or vi­o­la­tion of these stan­dards at­tract­ing a penalty of 5 lakh per tower.

TE­HELKA was the first to high­light the ad­verse health ef­fects caused by ra­di­a­tion more than two years ago in a three-part cover story, Ra­di­a­tion City, Ra­di­a­tion City 2 by Rishi Ma­jumder and Ra­di­a­tion City 3 by Sam­rat Chakrabarti, in June 2010.

In the first half of May 2010, TE­HELKA con­ducted a sur­vey of ra­di­a­tion lev­els at 100 spots across Delhi with Co­gent EMR So­lu­tion Lim­ited, a Delhi-based com­pany, which tracks the in­crease in Elec­tro Magnetic Ra­di­a­tion ( EMR) lev­els across In­dia and does ra­di­a­tion au­dits for tele­com op­er­a­tors.

In In­dia, Co­gent clas­si­fies EMR lev­els up to 600MW/Msq (mil­li­watt/me­tre square) as safe. The sur­vey showed that as many as 40 spots had “ex­treme anom­aly” with ra­di­a­tion lev­els close to seven times the safe limit. The read­ings were so high at times that the High Fre­quency Anal­yser, the de­vice used to mea­sure ra­di­a­tion, could not record the ra­di­a­tion. Thirty-one spots had un­safe-ra­di­a­tion lev­els (two to six times the safe limit), nine spots were bor­der-line ( just above the safe limit) and only 20 spots were deemed to have safe-ra­di­a­tion lev­els.

In the sec­ond part of the sur­vey, 115 spots in Mum­bai were sur­veyed fol­lowed by an­other 50 spots each in Chen­nai and Ben­galuru. Seventy of the 115 spots sur­veyed in Mum­bai showed “ex­treme anom­aly”. Lev­els of over 4000+ were found throughout most of north and south Ben­galuru and though Chen­nai EMR un­safe lev­els were less con­sis­tent, it had enough of its own 4000+ lev­els of “ex­treme anom­aly”.

Fol­low­ing TE­HELKA’s re­port, the Delhi High Court or­dered the set­ting up of a high-level com­mit­tee to look at the health haz­ards of cell phone tower vi­o­la­tions. The in­dus­try man­aged to get a stay on the or­der then but the re­cently is­sued guide­lines bind all tele­com op­er­a­tors to fol­low the norms or face a 5 lakh penalty.

On mo­bile hand­sets, the Spe­cific Ab­sorp­tion Rate ( SAR) value has now been changed to an av­er­age of 1.6 W/kg (watt per kilo­gram) over one gram of hu­man tis­sue, whereas the ear­lier limit was 2 Watts/ kg mea­sured over 10 grams of hu­man tis­sue. Though ex­ist­ing de­signs of mo­bile hand­sets, which are cur­rently com­pli­ant with 2.0 W/ kg av­er­aged over 10 gram of hu­man tis­sue, will continue to ex­ist up to 31 Au­gust 2013, only those mo­bile hand­sets with a re­vised SAR value of 1.6W/kg would be per­mit­ted to be man­u­fac­tured or im­ported in In­dia from 1 Septem­ber 2013. All new de­signs of mo­bile hand­sets, how­ever, have to com­ply with SAR val­ues of 1.6 W/ kg av­er­aged over 1 gram of hu­man tis­sue with ef­fect from 1 Septem­ber 2012.

Tele­com En­force­ment Re­search & Mon­i­tor­ing ( TERM) cells will have to con­duct au­dits on the self-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, which are cur­rently fur­nished by ser­vice providers. On a ran­dom ba­sis, it will test au­dit 10 per­cent of the Base Trans­ceiver Sta­tion and will test all cases where a pub­lic com­plaint is filed.

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