New Delhi, Sept. 27: An association of doctors today sought to allay fears about radiation from mobile phones and communication towers amid signals that service providers in some cities are facing problems in establishing or maintaining towers.
The Delhi Medical Association (DMA) today said its review of medical studies suggests there is no convincing scientific evidence yet for the notion that the radio frequency signals from mobile phones or mobile communication towers can cause cancer.
“A causal relationship between cancer and mobile phone radiation has not been established so far,” Prem Aggarwal, a cardiologist and member of the DMA told a news conference.
“But the long-term effects remain unknown, and the effects on children have not been studied yet.”
The International Agency for Research on Cancer had after a large study in 2009 labelled radio frequency electromagnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic” to humans, a classification applied when a causal association is considered credible, but when chance, bias or other factors cannot be ruled out with reasonable confidence.
The World Health Organisation has called for more research on the topic and some studies are investigating the potential health effects in children and adolescents.
India’s Science and Engineering Research Board has also invited research proposals from scientists to investigate the biological effects of radiation from mobile phone towers.
Aggarwal said the DMA decided to review medical studies on the subject after learning that some doctors had cautioned patients that keeping mobile phones in trouser pockets could cause impotence and long conversations could increase the risk of brain cancer.
The IARC study that pooled data from 13 countries found no increased risk of brain cancer with mobile phone use of more than 10 years.
But the study did observe an increased risk of glioma, a type of brain cancer, among those who reported the highest 10 per cent of cumulative hours of cell phone use, although there was no consistent trend linking increasing risk with greater duration of use.
“We believe that there is no consistent evidence of any harmful health effects when mobile phones and communication towers follow prescribed radiation norms,” Aggarwal said.
A technical consultant to the mobile phone industry said the radiation exposure limits set by the Indian government are lower than those in many countries, including North America or Japan. India’s current radiation power density limit is 0.45 watts per square metre, in contrast to 4.5 watts per square metre imposed by an international agency that sets guidelines for non-ionizing radiation.
India has an estimated 500,000 mobile phone towers scattered across urban and rural areas. “In some cities, mobile service providers are now finding it difficult to renew contracts for mobile towers on rooftops,” said Pamidimukkla Ramakrishna, an electronics engineer and consultant to the industry.
Under the rules, Ramakrishna said, mobile phone towers should be at least 25 metres away from any human habitation. “Sometimes, new constructions come up after the mobile tower has been erected --- this creates problems.”