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Thursday, October 4, 2012

New portal to address radiation complaints

    If your complaint of high radiation (more than prescribed limit of 450 milliwatts/sq m) from cell towers around your home or office establishes the fact, the tower owner will be fined Rs 5 lakh for each offending tower. 
    Moreover, the charge of Rs 4,000 initially to be paid by you to the department of telecommunications to check the radiation, will have to be returned by the tower owner, through the department. Over 160 people in the city have already sought checks on radiation levels in their vicinity, citing growing headaches, sleep disturbances and even miscarriages as after-effects of towers. 
    Inaugurating a helpline and a web portal on which citizens can register complaints against cell towers in their areas, Union minister of state for telecommunications Milind Deora said, "If a tower does not comply with the norms, the complainant will not have to pay the fees but the tower's owners, maybe operators, will have to pay the fees besides the fine." But if a complaint is found frivolous then the fee of Rs 4,000 will not be returned. 
    Interestingly, of the 160 complaints received by the Telecom Enforcement and Resource Monitoring (TERM) cell, only 12 have been checked so far as the cell, with its present strength of six officials, can't monitor more than one complaint a week. Monisha Biswas of the TERM cell said a majority of the complainants were apprehensive about the effects of radiation on their health. "The complaints show panic among people living closer to radiation towers. A lady complainant said she doubted radiation as the reason behind her miscarriages," said Biswas. 
    Deora said to address complaints, the TERM cell will therefore conduct necessary tests at the tower sites with the help of Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd (TCIL), a public sector unit under the ministry of communications and IT and an independent body. "Five teams of TCIL will handle 15 complaints daily. Test reports will also be uploaded on the web-portal for appraisal of the respective complainants in an interactive manner. This exercise will be in addition to the test audit being conducted by TERM cell on a random basis covering up to 10% of the tower sites," said Deora. 
    Citizens can also contact the TERM cell through phone 28574300, fax-28573535 and email – emr.termcell@gmail.com
    Local self-government bodies will also play a crucial role in curbing the menace of cell tower radiations. The Union telecommunications ministry has sought the help of all states and municipalities to frame and implement rules so that illegal and dense mushrooming of cell towers can be avoided.
People living close to cell phone towers and therefore with prolonged exposure to radiation may experience fatigue, memory loss, joint pains, sleep disturbances, headache, irritation, lack of concentration, increased heart rate, over anxiety, hypertension, and in serious cases may lead to neurological disorders and cancer and increase in body temperature 

Neurological | Predominant one-sided phone usage and exposure for a large duration (usually more than 10 years) were found in some studies to raise the risk of brain tumours 

Psychiatric | Psychiatrists report increasing incidence of ringtone anxiety in which users imagine their phone to be ringing or feel it vibrating 

Cardiovascular | Mobiles can cause electromagnetic interference in the working implanted pacemakers 
Endocrine | A French group studied the influence of electromagnetic fields emitted by GSM-900 cellular telephones on steroid and pituitary hormone levels in healthy males and discovered drops
Reproductive | Rats subjected to mobile radiation were found to have damaged DNA and low sperm count 
(Source: Journal Of Association Of Physicians Of India) 
Cell tower radiation complaints can be registered on www.dot.gov.in through a link 'public grievance – EMF radiation' 
A DoT team will visit your society for which a fee of Rs 4,000 will be charged
If radiation levels higher than the prescribed limit are detected, the fee will instead be charged from the company owning the tower which will also be fined Rs 5 lakh 
Citizens can also call on the helpline 9969555000 to register their complaints 
The complaint will be attended to within 10 days of payment of the fee 
There will be five monitoring units for the city 
So far over 160 complaints have been 
received but only 12-13 were checked due to a shortage of staff 
The city has 12 cellular operators and over 23,800 towers 
Don't use the cell phone for more than six minutes a day as they (phones up to 1.6 watts capacity) maintain absorption rate of radiation only for six minutes Use speakerphone or headset, keep the mobile a foot away from the body Don't press the handset against your face or head. Limit the length of calls and opt for SMS instead Wi-fi should be kept off if not in use 

    Use landlines whenever possible and check the specific absorption rate (SAR) radiation level of a phone while buying it. SAR should not be more than 1.6 watt/kg 
    People in highrises within 1km of TV towers or 500meters of FM towers can put metallic wire mesh, plants, trees, water curtains to absorb radiation. But reducing the frequency of cell tower antennas or removing them are said to be better options 
Mumbai will have the country's second laboratory to check the specific absorption rate (SAR) of mobile handsets by March next year. SAR is the capacity of the handset to emit and absorb radiations which, if more than the specified limit of 1.6 watt/kg, can harm the human body 
Samples of every mobile handset to be sold in Maharashtra will be checked for levels of electro magnetic radiations (EMR) 
Mobile handsets which comply with the old SAR value of 2 watt/ kg will continue to co-exist only till August 31, 2013 
From September 1, 2013 only handsets with revised SAR value of 1.6 watt/kg will be permitted to be made or imported into India, said R K Bhatnagar, advisor (technology) to DoT. He said devices which can help officials randomly check SAR of handsets will arrive soon, at a cost of Rs 15 lakh each. 
When actor Juhi Chawla (centre) inaugurated a web portal for citizens to register their complaints of cell tower radiations, the portal hit the server error thrice as she reportedly refused to give her correct age, mail and cell number. When a Cuffe Parade resident, Sangita Mehra, gave her name, mail and age, the server accepted her complaint immediately. The event was held at the BSNL office in Juhu in the presence of Union minister of state for telecom Milind Deora (above, right)

Officials with devices to measure cell tower radiation


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