Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Mobile phones a health risk, says govt panel

New Delhi: Radiation from mobile phones and towers poses serious health risks, including loss of memory, lack of concentration, disturbance in the digestive system and sleep disturbances, according to an inter-ministerial committee formed by the ministry of communications and information technology to study the hazards posed by mobile phones.

The committee has also attributed the disappearance of butterflies, bees, insects and sparrows from big cities to mobile phone-related radiation.

The eight-member committee, which included representatives from the health ministry, department of biotechnology and member secretary, DoT, has recommended that mobile phones not adhering to standard levels of specific absorption rate (SAR) — a measure of the amount of radiofrequency energy absorbed by the body while using a phone — should be barred.

It has said mobile towers should not be installed near high density residential areas, schools, playgrounds and hospitals. “The localised SAR value as per the Indian guidelines standard is 2 watt per kg, averaged over a six minute period and using a 10 gram average mass. With higher SAR values of mobile handsets the public could potentially receive much higher radio frequency exposure. We have recommended that SAR levels to be lowered down to 1.6 watt/kg, as prescribed by the Federal Communication Commission of US,” said a member.

R S Sharma, ICMR scientist, who represented the health ministry on the committee, said the findings were based on case studies by different experts. He added that the recommendations would be used to formulate a national policy and guidelines on electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation for telecom towers.

“In the case of a person using a cellphone, most of the heating occurs on the surface of the head, causing its temperature to increase by a fraction of a degree. The brain blood flow is capable of disposing this excess by increasing the local blood flow and increasing body temperature,” states the report. It says that the non-thermal effects of cellphone use attributed to the induced electromagnetic effects inside the body's biological cells are more harmful.

Think Before You Talk

Impact on Health

Burning, tingling sensation in scalp, headache, ringing in ears, fatigue, dizziness, sleep disturbance, palpitation, digestive system affected

Lack of concentration, increase in reaction time,

loss of memory

Do’s & Don’ts

Specific absorption rate of handsets limited to 1.6 watt/kg, must be displayed for buyers (SAR measures rate at which energy is absorbed by body tissue in a radio frequency electromagnetic field)
Use wireless hands-free system with low-power Bluetooth emitter
Keep your calls short, text instead, especially in case of kids and pregnant women
If you have an active medical implant, keep phone at least 30cm away
Tower Curbs Lower radiation frequency exposure limits to 1/10th of existing level
Restrict installation of mobile towers near crowded residential areas, schools, playgrounds and hospitals

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