Mobile towers throw a spanner in study on brain damage from phones

Mobile towers throw a spanner in study on brain damage from phones

In an ironical twist, growth of mobile phone towers and wi-fi connections in Delhi has slowed down a scientific initiative to find out if prolonged use of mobile phones could have an adverse effect on human brain.

Almost five years ago, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) launched a nation-wide survey to find out whether talking over cell phones for long hours is safe. The plan was to recruit about 4,500 volunteers, divide them in separate groups and study them for five years.

But scientists could manage to enrol only 2,500 individuals so far because of having a recruitment criterion of maintaining a distance of 300 mt from a cell phone tower and at least 10 mt distance from the source of a wi-fi connection. The criteria makes life difficult for the team.

Because of a dense network of mobile phone towers in the capital and growing number of wi-fi Internet connections, finding eligible people whose home or office fit these two criteria turned out to be a challenge.

“Unless these factors are controlled, how would we know the brain damages, if any, are related to mobile phone use. We can not conclude anything now,” R S Sharma, ICMR deputy director general and the principal investigator told Deccan Herald.

The volunteers are classified into four groups–those who talk in their mobile phone less than 30 minutes a day; those who talk for 1-2 hours; for 2-4 hours and for more than 4 hours. A team of medical professionals at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences checks these individuals from an age group of 18-45 years for cognitive behaviour as well as neurological, ENT, biochemical, reproductive and immunological parameters.

A second team from the Jawaharlal Nehru University checks the SAR (specific absorption rate) values of the handsets of these volunteers if an anomaly is spotted which can be correlated to a particular handset. “Nowhere in the world has such a complex study been attempted,” he said.

According to the telecom regulatory authority of India, there are 980 million mobile phone connections. DH News Service

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