New Mobile Phone Radiation Guidelines for India

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21 NOVEMBER 2011

The Government of India is issuing new radiation guidelines for mobile phones and antennas (see article in the Economic Times of India published on 19 November 2011). It will be mandatory for mobile phone emission levels to be displayed at retail outlets and on phones sold in India. Hands-free devices must also be sold with each mobile phone, along with a booklet mentioning safety precautions, as the government believes the use of these devices will significantly reduce the risk of exposure from electromagnetic fields.

In a country where it is estimated that there will be 1.159 billion cell phones by the year 2013, this could be the only solution to reduce the health risks of this technology.

According to another article published in India’s Business Line, nearly 75 per cent of the currently available mobile phone models on the market would have to be redesigned to meet these new radiation standards or would become obsolete.

Permitted radiation levels (SAR) in mobile phones will be lowered by 50 per cent to the same levels as allowed in the United States. This will raise costs per mobile phone from 5 to 30 per cent. In India, there are about 10 global brands and another 15 to 20 Indian brands. More than 4,000 importers trade in unbranded Chinese phones at a volume of 3 to 4 million per month. It is feared that the new radiation guidelines will have no impact on these mobile phones. The makers of Indian brands believe that market sales of Chinese brandes will expand radiply during the 6 to 9 months that will take for Indian companies to redesign mobile phones to meet these new standards.

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Electro-Magnetic Frequency


We don’t see them, we don’t hear them, but they are there all the same. Energy waves move through space and surround us. On reading this most people will say: so what? Who cares what energy waves do? But the fact is we should care. Emitted from all the electrical and electronic apparatus, like computers, lap-tops, and hand free phones that we take for granted Electro Magnetic Radiation (EMR) have become an invisible part of our environment. But the word radiation should give us a clue. These waves are unlikely to be good for our health in the long run.

There is a great deal of scientific discussion on the effects of EMR on human beings. The history of radiation, from its discovery by Marie Curie, clearly shows the blessings and the curses of this material. Curie in fact got cancer from the radiation she worked with for years. At that time the dangers were unknown but in time they were discovered since their effect on the body is a long term affair. Nowadays, X-Ray technicians stand in glass cubicles and monitor the amount of radiation they have been exposed to, and most people are careful not to stand too close to microwaves when they are on. But at the same time that we have learned – the hard way – to take these safety measures, when it comes to mobile phone relay stations we take a different attitude. And potentially even more dangerous is the fact is that we actually put these instruments which “radiate” radiation next to our heads, often for long periods of time.

The trouble is no one wants to open up this Pandora’s Box. Cell phones are a basic component of modern life from both the individual and the corporate point of view. The trouble is that this financial and social investment makes objective research very difficult. As a result many people believe that the present data on this subject is not accurate. However, there are almost as many people that are claiming the scaremongers are merely paranoid, and the media, who have their own agenda, are happy to create a sensation over this from time to time.

In 2004, WHO (World Health Organization) brought out a report entitled: What are Electromagnetic Fields: Health Effects. According to this report telephone masts have no effect upon the well-being of human beings. Furthermore, this report was endorsed by the scientific advisory body of the European Parliament on the grounds that the manner in which the waves are emitted nowadays is far safer than it was in the past. In America the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) came to a similar conclusion. And since different scientists across the globe have all arrived at the same results in relation to the same phenomena, there would appear to be little to worry about. Unfortunately life is not so simple. All the bodies that have decided that cell phones and the relay stations are safe are affiliated with the authorities who have a vested financial and political interest in finding such a result.

These accusations may sound like they are the stuff that thrillers or TV movies are made of rather than real life. However, despite the melodramatic element these claims cannot be dismissed so easily. For all the research that claims cell phones are harmless and safety precautions are in place, there is just as much scientific data to prove this is not so. One of the most challenging questioners is Dr. George Carlo, who used to work for the cell phone companies, but who resigned when his research could not be published, because it did not give his employers – the cell phone companies – the results they wanted.

Dr. Carlo pointed out how the same level of skepticism once existed about smoking leading to lung cancer and it took many years to prove the point. In fact the parallel is very apt, since it was only with time that the long term results could no longer be confounded. He believes the same may turn out to be the case with cell phones, but the potential health problems would be on a far larger scale since 1.9 billion people globally use cell phones. Hence any health problems they create would be of pandemic proportions.

Australian National University conducted a research project on people who had been using cell phones for the past ten years. Their final report in 2009, showed a connection between brain cancer and prolonged usage of cell phones. These results are very disturbing and as the National Cancer Institute pointed out there are three major aspects that need to be reconsidered. The number of cell phone users, the length of time the phones are in use and the susceptibility of the tissues near the ear to absorb the waves that are emitted by the phones. According to The American Cancer Association, there is also a difference between different phones and hence which kind of phone or whether it is a hands free device, is important.

A major reason for these conflicting reports as to whether cell phones are dangerous or not is due to the fact that they have not been around long enough for the full impact to be revealed. At present the Australian research on people using them for ten years is the longest time that has been measured. Not does this research take into account the incremental increase in usage over the past three to four years. And since the long term effects cannot as yet be calculated, Dr. Carlo’s suggestion that we take certain precautions, such as, not allowing children under ten to use a cell phone, is sensible. The campaign conducted by Oprah Winfrey to try and get people to pledge that they will not talk on the phone while driving, even on a hands free set, is also sensible. And if everyone can agree on these two principles, it is a least a place to start until we have more long-term data.

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