Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), an association of India’s main telecom companies and mobile manufacturers, has once again reiterated its claim that mobile towers in residential areas are not a cancer health risk. The non-government organization has cited a recent Madras High Court judgment which rejected a number of petitions for stalling erection of network base stations due to alleged harmful radiation and also statements by two senior Rajya Sabha ministers.
In 2012, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) reduced the exposure limit (Base Station Emissions) to about one tenth of the existing International Commission for Non Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) level, making it one of the most stringent electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure norms in the world. But there is still debate over the dangers of radiation emission by mobile network towers. There have been reports circulating in the media regarding the alleged cancer risk posed by mobile station bases in residential areas. Several housing societies have even denied permission to telecom companies for setting up such infrastructure on their buildings’ terraces or rooftops.
The press release by the COAI mentions the Madras High Court’s hearing of around 50 petitions seeking a ban on telecom companies installing their mobile network towers in Chennai residential areas. The high court bench dismissed the petitions saying that there was no scientific evidence to warrant such a prohibition and also pointed out an earlier scientific study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) which found base station radiation emissions were at permissible low levels. It highlighted another report in 2000 by the Radiation Protection Division in the UK concluding about the lack of general risk to the health of those living near base stations as exposures are well below the limits.
The announcement directed attention to the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad’s recent speech in the Rajya Sabha. Prasad highlighted reports by the World Health Organization about mobile tower radiations having no harmful affect on human health. He added that more mobile base stations are imperative to provide good coverage and connectivity in all regions across the country. Shripad Naik from the Health and Family Welfare Ministry also supported this by bringing up the ICMR’s claims about no danger to humans by network towers. The press release further noted 3 Indian high court rulings in Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat which also substantiated that mobile towers pose no adverse health risks.
With India boasting of one of the highest number of telecom subscribers in the world, the debate about the health risk of mobile network towers is not going to end soon and we will definitely be hearing more from the COAI.