[Science] Mobile Tower Radiation and Steps taken by Government

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Unacademy Plus Mrunal Economy for Prelims and Mains UPSC!
  1. What is Mobile tower radiation
  2. Why is it in news?
  3. Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on EMF Radiation.
  4. Timeline
  5. ICNIRP guidelines
  6. What is SAR?
  7. How and why does Mobile Radiation affect humans?
  8. Animals and Mobile Radiation?
  9. Steps taken by Environment Ministry

What is Mobile tower radiation

  • Mobile phone towers hold antennas and other communications equipment.
  • They flood the area for miles around with powerful high frequency radio waves to support the use of cell phones.
  • This radiation allegedly causes health problem.
  • I’m using the word “allegedly” because our Government said in parliament that mobile tower radiation  doesn’t cause health problems.

Why is it in news?

Because an MP asked in parliament “whether radiation emitted from base stations are hazardous?”, the Government replied,

  • “From all evidence accumulated so far, no adverse short or long term health effects have been shown to occur from the RF signals produced by Mobile tower base stations.”
  • But (just to be safe) we’ll bring down the exposure limit of radio frequency fields (mobile tower base station emissions) to one-tenth of the existing level from September 1, 2012.

Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on EMF Radiation.

EMF=electromagnetic field. Government had setup this Committee in 2011 to study the hazards of Mobile radiation.

The Committee’s findings

  1. most of the laboratory studies were unable to find a direct link between exposure to radio frequency radiation from mobile towers and health;
  2. scientific studies as yet have not been able to confirm a cause-and-effect relationship between radio frequency radiation and health.
  3. The effect of emission from cell phone towers is not known yet with certainty.
  4. However, as a precautionary measure, the IMC recommended reduction of mobile tower base station emissions to one-tenth of the present limit.
  5. It suggested stricter SAR limits (1.6 watt per kg) for mobile handsets.
  6. Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 should be amended so that only mobile handsets satisfying radiation standards (SAR) should be permitted for import / manufacture or sold in the country.
2008 DoT has decided to adopt the International Commission on Non-Iodizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)* guidelines in the telcom sector.
2010 Government sets up Interministerial Committee on Electric and Magnetic Field (EMF) radiation and its effects on health.
2011 Committee submits report.
2012 DoT made rules to mandate to all mobile phone manufacturers to comply with the specific and absorption rate (SAR)*.

ICNIRP guidelines

In short, they suggest that based on scientific research, if mobile radiation is below xyz level then there is no harm to humans or animals. So all the Governments across the world should make laws and rules to keep mobile radiation below xyz level.

What is SAR?

  • specific and absorption rate
  • it is a measure of the amount of radio frequency energy absorbed by the human body while using a mobile phone) so that radiation does not affect human health.
  • Presently, India’s SAR limit is 2 watt per kg
  • The Inter-ministerial Committee wants SAR to be 1.6 watts per kg. and that all the mobile manufacturers gives specific information about SAR on their product packages.
  • This new SAR limit would not affect the mobile manufacturer because almost all of them already adhere to the US standard.
  • However, it’d increase the production cost for cheap mobile phone manufacturers (Chinese type) because they’ll have to use better quality material to comply to the new SAR limits.

By the way, if mobile radiation doesn’t affect health then why is all the hue and cry by activists and PILs in Highcourts etc.? So,

How and why does Mobile Radiation affect humans?

  • Human body is itself is electromagnetic (very low around 10 hertz frequency).
  • Each of our cell has it’s own electromagnetic field when we exposed to the cellular tower frequency which is very high our body’s EMF (electromagnetic field) disturbed and thus caused very serious types of damages to our cells, brains etc
  • human body consists of 70% liquid. It is similar to that of cooking in the microwave oven where the water in the food content is heated first.
  • “Microwave absorption” effect is much more significant by the body parts which contain more fluid (water, blood, etc.), like the brain which consists of about 90% water.

Animals and Mobile Radiation?

  • You have ever seen a bee, sparrow, pigeon, or any bird flying and staying near the cell tower?…. I think No.
  • The reason is surface area of a bird which is larger than human body, so they absorb more radiation.
  • Since fluid content is small due to less weight, it gets heated up very fast and also the magnetic field disturbs their navigational skills.

Steps taken by Environment Ministry

The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) :

  1. Not to allow new mobile towers to be constructed within a one-kilometer radius of the existing towers.
  2. New towers should not be permitted within a radius of one kilometer of the existing towers.
  3. Any new towers do not obstruct the flight path of birds, or increase the combined radiation of all towers in the area.
  4. Put in GIS mapping to help monitor the population of birds and bees or the welfare of animals in protected wildlife areas.
  5. Do not install any towers near zoos or any wildlife protected zones without consulting Forest Dept.


Inputs from Shobhit Avasthi

Indian History Freedom Struggle Pratik Nayak

20 Comments on “[Science] Mobile Tower Radiation and Steps taken by Government”

  1. Hello Mrunal,

    ICNIRP is mentioned as International Commission on Non-Iodizing Radiation Protection instead of “..on Non-Ionizing..” under the topic timeline.

  2. Could not understand how “The surface area of a bird is larger than human body” ??

    1. Surface area of any object or animal is relative to its volume(space occupied by any object or any body or in simple terms the size). Volume is a 3 dimensional measure while the surface area is a linear or two dimensional term. It means when the size of an organism increases , the volume and surface area also increase, but increase in volume is larger than surface area. For ex – consider the rate of heat loss in birds and humans, the rate of heat loss in birds is faster than in humans, why? Simple, because the surface area of birds is larger with respect to their volume(size). Similarly the electromagnetic radiations penetrate deep into birds faster compared to humans or any other large body. Hope it clarifies ur doubt!!

      1. I think it should be Area/mass, Radiation absorbed will depend on the surface area and mass.
        As we know SAR is per unit mass.
        Hence Bird which has less weight due to light bones and body shape having aerodynamic features will absorb more.

      2. it should be more surface area/ volume ratio

    2. I think the more is surface area less the heat loss, because it absorbs heat and minimize the heat loss.

  3. sir
    I had joined your blog few days back so i don’t have previous articles issued by your blog and my exam of apfc and ib is on 23 Sept 2012 so could please send me data which relevant for my this exam on my mail.

  4. bring down the exposure limit of radio frequency fields (mobile tower base station emissions) to one-tenth of the existing level from September 1, 2012.
    How do the govt will accomplish this in already existing towers? also how this will effect the tower companies? Thanks

    1. 95% of the towers already comply to this rule, rest 5 % will be replaced by femtocell or picocell technologies. They can also alter the power output of the towers by simply making modifications in its circuit.

  5. hi mrunal,
    thanks a lot for ur articles.i have been following your articles from few days..they are really very help ful..could u send me link where i can find all your previous articles..thanks in advance:-

  6. Very useful information . Thanks

  7. Hi mrunal sir, please publish an article on waste water treatment technology.

  8. Great job….Sir!
    I salute you for that….

  9. Excellent job…….

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