Flipping open a small jade-green box, Pranav Poddar unveils a shiny maroon-coloured object the size of a sim card. This is the enviro chip that changes the constant nature of radiation, harmful for the human body, to a random one, which is safer, he says as he carefully fixes the glistening device slightly above the centre of the back panel of a mobile phone. The position where you fix it is important, as its efficacy at controlling the mobile phones radiation depends a lot on its location, adds the director of the Delhi-based Synergy Environics, which provides solutions for electromagnetic radiations emitted from mobiles, computers and cell phone towers.
As concerns about the harmful health effects of radiation increase, especially from cell phone towers, a number of companies are offering anti-radiation devices which they claim can mitigate the hazards. Environics solutions, for instance, include, besides chips for mobiles, laptops and computers, customized strips for placing around cell phone towers. A similar protection against radiation from towers is offered by Mumbai-based NESA Radiation Solutions. Among the products in its portfolio are radiation detectors as well as shielding films and curtains which can be put inside buildings close to towers. The electronic components in the shielding films can convert microwave energy into heat energy and then dissipate it. They have been found to have 90-95 % effectiveness, says the companys director, Neha Kumar.
Another range of products offered by Delhi-based Green8 India includes cellular foils manufactured in Germany that can be put underneath the mobile phones battery to reduce radiation. The companys solution for tower radiation is a transformer, labeled PST 28, which Suneel Sardana, the firms CMD, says neutralizes radiation and creates a protective zone within a radius of up to 33 metres.
But despite the proliferation of these devices, their acceptability among consumers is still quite low.According to K Kanan of Chennai-based Portoworld that markets an antiradiation chip called Radisafe, a major reason for slow sales in India is because the effects of radiation are not immediately visible and people are not bothered about it too much. We have scant respect for health in our country, unlike the West where diseases arising from radiation are a major concern. In fact, sales of our products are high in the US, Europe and even countries like the West Indies and Mozambique. However, it is just a few thousand units in India which, ironically, has a mobile phone subscriber base of nearly 90 crore.
Cell phone companies though, not surprisingly, brush aside the efficacy of these products and even the need for them, saying there is no conclusive evidence to prove that emissions from mobile towers cause health hazards. The government has adopted and implemented the ICNIRP (International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection Board) standards for the telecom sector in the country which is considered to be one of the best in the world and has been adopted by over 90% of nations. It ensures abundant precautionary limits for exposure from base stations and phones. So there is no question of any instrument, device or product being necessary for protecting consumers from such emissions. They are simply a waste of money, says Rajan S Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India.
Anti-radiation product proponents say they expect this reaction from a very strong cell phone lobby in the country. Acknowledging that these products are working is tantamount to the mobile companies admitting that their own phones and transmission towers are emitting harmful radiation in the first place, which they will never do, says Sardana.
But the fact remains that the lack of effective standards for rating these devices is a stark, gaping hole in their claims. N K Goyal, president of the Communications and Manufacturing Association of India, says the field remains somewhat of a grey area. There are many products which are available in the market now.In the absence of certification from a credible agency like, say, the Bureau of Indian Standards, it is very difficult to find out which is good and which is bad. Also, not much indigenous research has been done on anti-radiation devices in the country. Poddar of Synergy Environics says they have been studying the subject on their own for the past few years and have recently carried out medical tests in association with Delhis Max Hospital, which showed encouraging results. We would also like to test our products on a larger scale with an established protocol and cooperation from the telecom industry, says Poddar. However, a few of the mobile tower manufacturers we have approached say they can allow radiation protection devices on their towers only if there is a legislation from the government to do so. The main issue, undoubtedly, is of awareness among more people. Once awareness increases, we are sure the demand for these products will be in the form of a huge tidal wave.
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