Cell phones have become the basic need of today and there has been an unprecendented growth of mobile industry in India during the last decade. Every
technology has some positive as well as negative impacts. There has been a public concern over the adverse impacts of harmful radiation from mobile towers and mobile phones on
human health. Social activisits and some NGO’s are resisting the erection of mobile towers in residential colonies. A study on the quantification of electromagnetic field (EMF)
radiation from mobile towers and their health impacts on human beings have been carried out in Kota city of Rajasthan. It has been noticed that EMF radiation from almost 50% of the mobile towers installed in Kota city is beyond the permissible limits prescribed by the DoT, Govt. of India. To get an idea of harmful health impacts on human beings, a public survey through questionnaire was also held. The results of public survey indicate that people have seen a rise in health related issues since last decade, when installation of mobile towers has got momentum. However, the public is not sure whether it is due to EMF radiation of
mobile towers or otherwise. Hence, based on studies and research carried out so far, it can be concluded that although there is no scientific cause behind harmful radiation from mobile towers, there is an increase in short-term and long-term diseases in general.
Electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation is defined as the flow of photons in space. The photons contain energy and depending on the amount of energy found in these photos, different types of radiations are defined. EMF radiations are classified into two types, known as ionizing radiation and non-ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiations are those which contain energy sufficient to overcome the binding energy of electrons in atoms or molecules, and hence creating ions. Examples of ionizing radiation are UV rays, X-rays, gamma rays, cosmic rays etc. Non-ionizing radiations are those which do not carry much energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules. Examples are low frequency radiations such as radio waves, microwaves, and infrared radiations
1.1 Frequency Range of Radiation
The frequency range of non-ionizing radiation is from 1 Hz to 1THz (i.e.1000 GHz) and that of the ionizing radiation is above 1THz. Therefore, non-ionizing radiation has less health effects on human beings whereas ionizing radiation can change the chemical bonds of human tissues and even genetic damage can also occur.
1.2 Effects of EMF Radiation
Effects of EMF radiation can be divided into two categories: Bio-effects and health effects.
Bio-effects can be measured against any change in the atmosphere and these may not be harmful to human health. Bio-effects are again classified into two types,
thermal and non-thermal effects.
Thermal effects are due to the heat generated when EMF radiation is absorbed whereas non-thermal effects are due to the induced electromagnetic effects inside the biological
cells of the body, which may be more harmful.
Health effects are those changes which may be either short term or long term and they stress the system and may be harmful to human health.
1.3 EMF Radiation from Mobile Services
The EMF radiation in mobile services originates from two sources, base transceiver station (BTS) and mobile handsets. These radiations are relatively at the low end of the electromagnetic spectrum and hence the energy carried by them is unable to break chemical bonds in molecules. Therefore, they fall under the non-ionizing radiation category.
To provide mobile services in a particular area, telecom companies install their base transceiver station (BTS), at suitable locations, according to their radio frequency (RF) network planning for better coverage of the area and for meeting consumer requirements. The mobile towers have antennas which radiate electro-magnetic power. The BTS also contains radio transmitters whose outputs are combined and fed via cables to the base station antenna,
which is mounted at the top of the mast
The actual source of radiation is the transmitting antenna and not the transmitter itself, because the transmitting antenna is the main source which determines electromagnetic field distribution in the surrounding area of a transmitting station.
1.4 Radiation Pattern of a Mobile Tower Antenna
Radiation is highest from the primary lobes in the horizontal direction. The direct exposure towards the primary lobes along the line of antenna is the most severe case of the exposed radiation. Radiation from secondary lobes ranges from medium to very low. The distance from the source of radiation is also an important factor. The power density varies by (1/R2), where R is the distance.
The pattern of radiation is shown in the figure below.
2. EMF RADIATION NORMS IN INDIA
International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is an international body which studies possible adverse effects on human health from exposure to non-ionising radiation.In 2008, Department of Telecommunication (DoT), Govt. of India has adopted the ICNIRP Guidelines and prescribed limits/levels for antennas (Base Station Emissions) for general public exposure. However, from 2012, norms of mobile towers’ EMF exposure limits have been revised to 1/10th of the existing prescribed limits of ICNIRP as a matter of abundant precaution
3. METHODOLOGY AND PUBLIC SURVEY
To study the effect of EMF radiation from mobile towers, first it was decided to measure the radiation emission from mobile towers in Kota. We divided the city into four zones and in each zone, total 10 sampling locations were identified. So, overall 40 mobile towers were studied from all the zones. The following zones were taken up:
1. Residential area (Zone-A)
2. Commercial area (Zone-B)
3. Agriculture and rural area (Zone-C)
4. Highway and far flung area (Zone-D)
After zone wise distribution of mobile towers, observations of radiations from mobile towers were made using a mobile app known as EMF detector and mobile tower radiation detector. The measurements were taken for a year long period from April 2016 to March 2017 throughout the Kota city in residential area, highways, far-flung agriculture area and commercial area. Total 40 observations have been recorded using detector.
A 2010 review stated that “The balance of experimental evidence does not support an effect of ‘non-thermal’ radio frequency fields” on the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, but noted that research on low frequency effects and effects in humans was sparse. A 2012 study of low-frequency radiation on humans found “no evidence for acute effects of short-term mobile phone radiation on cerebral blood flow”.
There is no strong or consistent evidence that mobile phone use increases the risk of getting brain cancer or other head tumors. The United States National Cancer Institute points out that “Radiofrequency energy, unlike ionizing radiation, does not cause DNA damage that can lead to cancer. Its only consistently observed biological effect in humans is tissue heating. In animal studies, it has not been found to cause cancer or to enhance the cancer-causing effects of known chemical carcinogens.” The majority of human studies have failed to find a link between mobile phone use and cancer. In 2011 the IARC, a World Health Organization working group, classified mobile phone use as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. The IARC summed up their conclusion with: “The human epidemiological evidence was mixed. Several small early case–control studies were considered to be largely uninformative. A large cohort study showed no increase in risk of relevant tumours, but it lacked information on level of mobile-phone use and there were several potential sources of misclassification of exposure. The bulk of evidence came from reports of the INTERPHONE study, a very large international, multicentre case–control study and a separate large case–control study from Sweden on gliomas and meningiomas of the brain and acoustic neuromas. While affected by selection bias and information bias to varying degrees, these studies showed an association between glioma and acoustic neuroma and mobile-phone use; specifically in people with highest cumulative use of mobile phones, in people who had used mobile phones on the same side of the head as that on which their tumour developed, and in people whose tumour was in the temporal lobe of the brain (the area of the brain that is most exposed to RF radiation when a wireless phone is used at the ear)” The CDC states that no scientific evidence definitively answers whether mobile phone use causes cancer.
Effects on children
A report from the Australian Government’s Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) in June 2017 noted that:
The 2010 WHO Research Agenda identified a lack of sufficient evidence relating to children and this is still the case. … Given that no long-term prospective study has looked at this issue to date this research need remains a high priority. For cancer in particular only one completed case-control study involving four European countries has investigated mobile phone use among children or adolescents and risk of brain tumour; showing no association between the two (Aydin et al. 2011). … Given this paucity of information regarding children using mobile phones and cancer … more epidemiological studies are needed.
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