Govt seeks research proposals to study mobile radiation



New Delhi: Amid concerns over radiation from cell phone towers, government today called for research proposals to study the possible impact of electromagnetic frequency radiation on humans and living organisms.

The call for proposals by the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) comes in the wake of conflicting reports on the impact of cell tower radiation with a section claiming that it caused illness including cancer while others saying that there was no definitive finding to support it.

The research and development would study the possible impact of electromagnetic frequency radiation exposure from mobile towers and handsets on humans, living organisms, flora and fauna, and environment.

The study, to be funded in campaign mode, is a joint initiative supported by the SERB, a statutory body under the Department of Science and Technology, and the Department of Telecommunications.

The researchers are expected to study the impact of electromagnetic frequency radiation (EMF-r) in the non-ionising band -- 300 MHz to 3 GHz -- on biota and ecology.

The researchers have been asked to focus on impact of EMF-r on any aspect --physiological, genetic, ecological, growth, development-- at any level including cellular, sub-cellular, molecular, sub-molecular in any model system including humans, plants, animals, birds, fishes and microbes.

Studies on the aspects of epidemiology, social behaviour and safety are also within the ambit of the research.

There have been reports in a section of the media about the purported ill-effects of EMF-r from cell towers and mobile handsets.

Last year, the Department of Telecommunication had lowered the permissible radiation limit for mobile towers to 0.45 watts per sq metre -- which is one-tenth of the ICNIRP guidelines -- for Indian operators.

Also, the government had made it mandatory the display of specific absorption rate (SAR) -- the amount of radio waves absorbed by the body tissue when a phone is in use-- on mobile handsets.

The rules state that cellphones can be imported and sold in India only if the SAR level is below 1.6 watts per kg (W/kg) which is below the European norms of SAR upto 2 W/kg.

Last year the BioInitiative Report 2012 (BIR-2012) on standards for electromagnetic radiation claimed that the evidence for risks to health from wireless technologies and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) has substantially increased since 2007.

The studies alleged a link between cell phone radiation and brain tumours.

However, agencies such as the World Health Organisation, UK Health Protection Agency and the International Commission on Non Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) do not support the conclusions.

PTI