Health or cellphone? Take your pick

With ever-increasing nu­m­ber of cellphone us­e­rs –  approx. more than 50 crores in 2010 across the country, cellphone towers on terraces of residential and commercial building have also increased by leaps and bounds, and their figure currently is estimated to be over five lakh.

While health hazards with regard to use of cellphones have become a cause of concern across the world, the ill-effects of radiation from the mobile phone towers is also being studied extensively in many countries.

Recently, Ramnath Garg, a resident of East Delhi recently filed a petition in Delhi High Court seeking a ban on high-frequency mobile phone towers in populated residential areas, around schools and hospitals as the radiation from them causes cancer among other serious illnesses.

He claimed that his 30-year-old son died of cancer due to radiation from the cellphone tower atop his rooftop. Following his petition, the court issued a notice to the Centre and Delhi governments asking for their resp­o­n­se over radiation emanating from cellphone towers.

Even as the government works on its submissions, prior studies across the world and within the country have been conducted to assess the health hazards, including cancers from electro-magnetic radiation from mobile phone towers.

Garg mentions in his petition that the radiation from the cellphone towers causes different types of swelling in the brain and head, hearing disorders, headaches and
anxiety neurosis. Experts also opine that one should not talk for more than 10-15 minutes at a stretch on the cellphones. The heat that you experience during these extended conversations is primarily due to radiation.

Those who have installed cellphone towers are obviously not unaffected by these
worrying reports. Parag Kakwani, who has mobile phone towers on his terrace for the last three years in Gurgaon, says though they have never experienced any sort of negative change in their health but these reports do scare them. “Earlier we had two towers on our rooftop but after knowing that they may be causing serious health problems we got rid of one of them. Though we haven’t faced any health issues so far but a sense of fear does exist,” he says.

Oncologists say the radiati­on that emanates from mobile phone towers and cellphones is the same. Referring to the indigenous studies, they say that radiation of mobile phone towers do cause illnesses but to what extent is the damage done is yet to be ascertained.

Dr N R Datta, senior consultant, department of radiation oncology, Dharamshila Hospital And Research Centre, says, “Any type of radiat­i­on that damages the DNA in any form can cause cancer.  

“But whether the radiation that emanates from cellpho­n­es and mobile phone towers causes cancer is something controversial and yet to be proven scientifically.”

However, according to a report submitted by IIT Mumbai to the government in 2010,  there are several health haza­r­ds associated with radiation from cellphones and towers. Diseases like blood brain barrier, irreversible infertility, effect on skin, weakening of bones, salivary gland tumors, and sleep disorders etc have been listed in the report.

“The seriousness of the health hazards due to radiation has not been realised by the common man. Cell operators continue to claim that there are no health issues. Many countries have adopted stricter radiation norms,” the report’s conclusion said.

Dr Sabhya Sachi Saxena, consultant, ENT at Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad, says he has experienced a rise in the number of patients with salivary gland tumor which could be because of phone tower radiation but that cannot be ascertained. “Exposure to cell tower radiation may lead to behavioural changes such as depression, memory loss, numbness in body etc,” he says in a reference to the report.

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