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Telecom towers told to reduce radiation

The government on Friday issued guidelines on health hazards from tower radiation. Among other things, it says the minimum distance of a tower (with two antennae) from a residential building should be 35 metres.

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

With growing concerns over the impact of mobile radiation on human health, the government on Friday asked telecom towers to reduce electromagnetic radiation to a tenth from from tomorrow.

This means, from September 1, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will ensure the exposure limits (for radio frequency fields for 1800 Mhz) be brought down by a tenth to 0.92 watt per square metre, compared to the current standard of 9.2 watt per square meter. Telecom towers, or base stations, provide link to and from mobile phones through radiation.

There are 0.7 million towers through the country. The government on Friday issued guidelines on health hazards from tower radiation. Among other things, it says the minimum distance of a tower (with two antennae) from a residential building should be 35 metres.

The guidelines also said that non-compliance will result in a penalty of Rs 5 lakh per tower.

"Public health comes first. Technology must be embraced, but ultimately it must be subject to public health," telecom minister Kapil Sibal said.

For mobile handsets, the specific absorption rate (SAR) value will now be 1.6 watts/kg averaged over one gramme of human tissue. Previously, the SAR value for handsets was 2 watts/kg measured over 10 grammes of human tissue. Mobile phone handsets generate electromagnetic fields which are absorbed by the human body. The amount of radio frequency absorbed by the body while using a mobile phone is measured by the SAR.

However, one-year time has been given for tuning the handsets in stock with "Any new handset that is manufactured must comply with this norm," the minister said.

Rajan S Mathews, director general of COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India), stated that lowering the radio frequency field limits, is a good precaution but it will bring no health benefits.”We were already at par with the global standards, lowering it further is unlikely to have health benefits. Moreover, the new standards would require some sites to readjust which might cause some temporary service disruptions.”

Exposure limits for RF fields (1,800 MHz)
12 W/m2 US, Canada and Japan
9.2 W/m2 EU, earlier followed by India
9 W/m2 Australia
2.4 W/m2 Belgium
1.0 W/m2 Italy, Israel
0.92 W/m2 New standard in India to be followed from September 1, 2012
0.5 W/m2 New Zealand
0.4 W/m2 China
0.2 W/m2 Russia, Bulgaria
0.1 W/m2 Poland, Paris, Hungary
0.095 W/m2 Switzerland
0.09 W/m2 Germany ( Precaution recommendation only)
0.001 W/m2 Austria

Mobile users have also been advised to use headset (bluetooth, wired) to keep mobile away from their body. They should also limit the length of calls and make more use text messaging.

The SAR value information will be displayed on the handsets like IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number, which is used for the recognition of the model. The Telegraph Act will be amended for ensuring compliance of new SAR values, Sibal added. The government will set up a testing lab for random checking of SAR values of mobile handsets, Sibal said.

An Inter-Ministerial Committee comprising of the Department of Telecom, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment was set up in August 2010 for studying radiation from cellular towers and mobile handsets. Earlier, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has notified the DoT to ensure that radiation emission levels from cell towers are under permissible limits.

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First Published: Sat, September 01 2012. 00:19 IST