Though we’ve seen advancement in mobile technologies by leaps and bounds, some areas of concern, like the effect they may have on human life, have taken a backseat. The most recent report by MumbaiMirror reveals that residents of Galaxy Heaven society in Juhu have been suffering from contant headaches, hearing problems and nausea due to the exposure to radiation.The 10-storey building's terrace has at least half-a-dozen mobile phone towers and 18 antennae. Leading the fight with BMC is celebrity resident Sukhwinder Singh who owns two floors in the Galaxy Heaven building.
Does mobile phone radiation affect our health?
Singh said that several residents are suffering from health problems, and they are certain that exposure to radiation from the towers is responsible for it. He also adds that if quick action is not taken, then they may end up with life-threatening ailments. It isn’t just residents of Galaxy Heven, but those living in Hina Kunj building which is 10 minutes away have also been complaining of health problems due to exposure to radiation. Three residents of Hina Kunj have also been diagnosed with cancer.
The Galaxy Heaven residents discovered mobile phone towers on their terrace only a few weeks ago, when most of them complained about similar ailments. Reportedly, the builder has the rights to give out the terrace to mobile service providers, but he never bothered to inform the residents about it, disclosed Sukhwinder.
According to BMC draft guidelines, only two mobile phone towers are permitted on a building, and only if residents of that building give their consent. In addition, service providers require a no-objection certificate from the society and consent of 70 percent of its occupants. On the other hand, the builder said that Galaxy Heaven is yet to be issued an occupation certificate, and all residents are technically tenants.
To address the growing concerns of the people, DoT had launched a public helpline and web portal for the Mumbai Telecom Circle last year, where complaints against radiation emitted from mobile towers can be registered. It can be accessed from the DoT website, under the link “Public Grievance – EMF Radiation”. The Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), the technical wing of the Ministry of Communications, has a test procedure for the measurement of exposure levels and their Telecom Enforcement Resource & Monitoring (TERM) cell will then conduct an audit of the site.
As per the norms introduced last year, operators were mandated to reduce the radiation levels by 1/10th of the current levels, thus making it 0.9 watt/m2. While many welcomed this news, the critics were quick to point out that even this was not safe. There has been an ongoing debate about whether the radiation being emitted from the mobile phone towers can be a cause of cancer. The answer to this question is a tricky one as the scientific data available to date doesn’t clearly state whether or not radiation emitted from the mobile phone towers can cause cancer. Even the WHO report terms it a probable factor. However, there have been several instances which make us sit back and think about the harmful affects of the mobile tower radiation. For instance, the Kaiswal family from Jaipur where three family members were detected with cancer after the installation of mobile phone towers five metres away from their house, or the Usha Kiran building in Mumbai that cited three cases of brain tumour that were attributed to the mobile phone towers installed on the rooftop of an adjacent building.
Anuj Jain, a telecom engineer and resident of South Mumbai said, “Having conducted radiation audits in and around the area I live, I can say that the situation is quite grave. Today the towers are everywhere. I have been constantly working with people to create awareness. I am a committee member in my own building and we ourselves have a tower on our building. But ours is the tallest building in the vicinity and having a tower on our building lessens the risk, then having the tower on the building adjacent to us. So if your building has a lot of sight and no building around it can get affected then that is the ideal spot.”
In our past interview about effects of mobile phone radiation on human life with Dr. Rakesh Jalali, Professor and Senior Oncologist at the Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, he said, concern arises because essentially we are using electromagnetic radiation. Even though it belongs to the lowest end of the spectrum in terms of frequency, it is still slightly more than the radio frequency waves used by radio. However, he quickly pointed out that they are essentially non-ionising, which means they cannot cause direct damage to DNA. Direct DNA damage generally occurs because of ionising radiation.
While there is no direct link to prove the cause of cancer or even tumour, radiation can have other health effects. Specific absorption Rate or SAR, as it is more commonly known, is the more worrying factor with evident health implications. SAR is associated with your mobile devices. Even with the reduced values, SAR can be potentially harmful to your health. However, this depends on your phone usage and so is in your control. Dr. Jalali, while explaining the impact of SAR, points out that all electromagnetic radiations are governed by the inverse square law, which means the longer the distance of source to the tissue, the less is the effect of the energy deposition. Speaking about the ill effects of such energy deposition he says, “People have reported headaches which could be because there is a temporary thermal deposition on the hearing nerve due to the hearing apparatus of the phone. Depending on person to person some have complained of hearing loss, they have complained of tinnitus – ringing sensation in the ear, people have also complained of fatigue because of excessive use of cell phone.”