• A recently-declassified study of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) states that mobile towers do not have any negative effect on human health.
• The study, ‘Mobile tower installations in India & its impact on environment’ is one among several done in the previous decade by the CPCB, which had not been declassified since 2010.
• They have been published recently after the Supreme Court instructed to make public, all reports related to the impact of environmental pollution on health and the economy.
Highlights of the report:
• Based on safety limits prescribed by the International Commission on Non Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), the review report had said that there was no substantive or convincing evidence of cell phone radiation’s biological effects that could harm a person’s health. The ICNIRP standard uses the limit of 450 μW/cm2.
• However, the report does admit that the current exposure safety standards are purely based on the thermal effect while ignoring the non-thermal effects of radiation.
• While stating that there was no impact of radiation from towers, the CPCB has said that this concern on health hazards needed further research, both national as well as international.
• However, since 2010, India has moved forward. In 2015, the Department of Telecommunications had come up with new norms of radiation from mobile phone towers which came into force in September 2015. And the limits on power density from mobile phone towers were restricted to one-tenth of the existing limit.
• In international standards, “thermal effect” of radiation refers to the heat that is generated due to absorption of microwave radiation which causes cellular and physiological changes in living beings. This effect may be responsible for genetic defects, effects on reproduction and development, central nervous system behaviour and many similar serious health consequences.
• Non-thermal effects of radiation have been shown to be responsible for fatigue, irritability, headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, disruption and other psychological disorders, memory loss and difficulties in concentration.
About International Commission on Non Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP):
• The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is an international commission specialized in non-ionizing radiation protection. The organization’s activities include determining exposure limits for electromagnetic fields used by devices such as cellular phones.
• ICNIRP is an independent non-profit scientific organization chartered in Germany. It was founded in 1992 by the International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA) to which it maintains close relations.
• The mission of ICNIRP is to screen and evaluate scientific knowledge and recent findings toward providing protection guidance on non-ionizing radiation, i.e. radio, microwave, UV and infrared.
Mains Paper 3: Environment
Prelims level: ICNIRP
Mains level: Environmental impact assessment