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Mobile phone radiation and health
Pakistan Created: 7 May 2009
Mobile phone radiation and health concerns have been raised, especially following the enormous increase in the use of wireless mobile telephony throughout the world (as of August 2005[update], there were more than 2 billion users worldwide). Mobile phones use electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range, and some believe this may be harmful to human health. These concerns have induced a large body of research (both epidemiological and experimental, in non-human animals and in humans). Concerns about effects on health have also been raised regarding other digital wireless systems, such as data communication networks.The World Health Organization, based upon the consensus view of the scientific and medical communities, states that health effects (e.g. headaches) are very unlikely to be caused by cellular phones or their base stations, and expects to make recommendations about mobile phones in October 2009. However, some national radiation advisory authorities have recommended measures to minimize exposure to their citizens.

Overall health risks

Many scientific studies have investigated possible health effects of mobile phone radiations. These studies are occasionally reviewed by some scientific committees to assess overall risks. The most recent assessment was published in 2007 by the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR). It concludes from the available research that no significant health effect has been demonstrated from mobile phone radiation at normal exposure levels:

* Normal exposure to mobile phone radiation cannot cause headaches or dizziness, nor can it cause brain cancers, neurological effects or reproductive effects.
* A few inconclusive studies suggest that it may cause a benign tumour of the auditory nerve.
* However, more studies concerning potential health effects on children are needed.

Health hazards of base stations

Another area of concern is the radiation emitted by the fixed infrastructure used in mobile telephony, such as base stations and their antennas, which provide the link to and from mobile phones. This is because, in contrast to mobile handsets, it is emitted continuously and is more powerful at close quarters. On the other hand, field intensities drop rapidly with distance away from the base of the antenna because of the attenuation of power with the square of distance. Base station emissions must comply with safety guidelines .Several surveys have found increases of symptoms depending upon proximity to electromagnetic sources such as mobile phone base stations. A 2002 survey study by Santini et al. in France found a variety of self-reported symptoms for people who reported that they were living within 300 metres (984 ft) of GSM cell towers in rural areas, or within 100 m (328 ft) of base stations in urban areas. Fatigue, headache, sleep disruption and loss of memory were among the symptoms reported. Similar results have been obtained with GSM cell towers in Spain, Egypt, Poland and Austria. There are significant challenges in conducting studies of populations near base stations, especially in assessment of individual exposure. However, a study conducted at the University of Essex and another in Switzerland concluded that mobile phone masts were unlikely to be causing these short term effects in a group of volunteers who complained of such symptoms. The Essex study has been criticised as being skewed due to drop-outs of test subjects, although these criticisms were answered by the authors.

As technology progresses and data demands have increased on the mobile network, towns and cities have seen the number of towers increase sharply, including 3G towers which work with larger bandwidths.Many measurements and experiments have shown that transmitter power levels are relatively low - in modern 2G antennas, in the range of 20 to 100 W, with the 3G towers causing less radiation than the already present 2G network. An average radiation power output of 3 W is used. The use of 'micro-cell geometries' (large numbers of transmitters in an area but with each individual transmitter running very low power) inside cities has decreased the amount of radiated power even further.The radiation exposure from these antennas, while generally low level, is continuous.

Experts consulted by France consider it is mandatory that main antenna axis not to be directly in front of a living place at a distance shorter than 100 meters. This recommendation was modified in 2003 to say that antennas located within a 100-metre radius of primary schools or childcare facilities should be better integrated into the cityscape and was not included in a 2005 expert report.

Safety standards and licensing

In order to protect the population living around base stations and users of mobile handsets, governments and regulatory bodies adopt safety standards, which translate to limits on exposure levels below a certain value. There are many proposed national and international standards, but that of the International Commission for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) is the most respected one, and has been adopted so far by more than 80 countries. For radio stations, ICNIRP proposes two safety levels: one for occupational exposure, another one for the general population. Currently there are efforts underway to harmonise the different standards in existence.

Radio base licensing procedures have been established in the majority of urban spaces regulated either at municipal/county, provincial/state or national level. Mobile telephone service providers are, in many regions, required to obtain construction licenses, provide certification of antenna emission levels and assure compliance to ICNIRP standards and/or to other environmental legislation.

Many governmental bodies also require that competing telecommunication companies try to achieve sharing of towers so as to decrease environmental and cosmetic impact. This issue is an influential factor of rejection of installation of new antennas and towers in communities.
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Source: Kashmir Watch, Sadia Shaikh, 04 May 2009

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