Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Activists demand mobile app to check cell tower radiation

MUMBAI: City activists on Friday demanded introduction of a mobile app—in use in other countries—that will allow people to check cell tower radiation in the neighbourhood. They said the government must collate cell tower data and allow the app developer to link them through mobiles across Mumbai.

Cellular operators want it to be linked to the portal on cell towers being developed in the state.

Activist Prakash Munshi said, "The app will help citizens gauge the extent of radiation they are exposed to. These days, there are clusters of antennae on any building and residents do not know how much radiation they are exposed to. The power output of antennae in some areas is higher. With the app, citizens can use the readings to lodge complaints."

Another activist, Nikhil Desai, said the app can minimize health risks posed by cell tower radiation. "Though the readings may not be 100% accurate for an app, it will reflect excessive radiation levels in certain areas and one can nail the cellular operator," he stated.

Dariusz Leszczynski, radiation expert and member of the WHO expert committee (2011) said, "Such an app exists in countries like Finland (from where he hails). It runs on any commercial Android phone and can be downloaded for free. It will help detect high radiation exposure which can lead to cancer." The WHO expert panel, of which he was part of, had classified electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation as "possibly carcinogenic to humans". But cellular operators said there was no conclusive scientific evidence linking cell towers to cancer.

Leszczynski said that instead of a few antennae with high radiation, the city can have many low power antennae. He said there would not be any call drops if the antennae are strategically placed. But cellular operators said they are being continuously told to remove antennae. The scientist suggests more antennae, but will it be possible with the red-tape and opposition from activists, they said.

Leszczynski further said : "Smartphone radiation exposures are much higher because of the data traffic. Even though one may not be using the phone all the time, there is continuous data flowing from Facebook and other apps such as weather, news update, etc. Citizens should not talk on phone for more than half an hour daily." He stated in India, there was need to revise the safety standards and a better research on the harmful effects of mobile tower radiation.

Munshi said that the present EMF level of 450 mW/m2 should be reduced to 100. However, telecom sources said that when levels were lowered in some foreign countries, they were unable to provide proper 3G and 4G services.

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