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Growing unsafe practices adopted by various sectors be it construction, e-waste disposal or for that matter cell phone radiations are all adding up to air pollution at an alarming rate, says Brigadier S V S Choudhary, Chairman-Safety & Quality Forum, IEI-Nagpur.The IEI- Nagpur Chapter had recently organised a seminar on Safety-Safe 2010.

Cell phones have become an important component and companion of both commercial and domestic life. It’s perhaps an essential evil that people carry around close to their heart despite the harmful radio-active waves it emits. Cell phones, at the making stage, while at use and even after it is disposed off as e-waste, is a hazard. Yet, people cannot do without it. Recently, a news report of Delhi brought to fore the uncalled death of two citizen caused by the radiation of cell phone because of unsafe methods of disposing radio-active substances. Handling of radio active substances requires safety precautions of a very high degree. What happened in Delhi was a classical example of negligence and violation of all safety norms in radio-active waste disposal.

In this case, unwanted waste material, containing Cobalt-60, a radio-active substance which was still active was disposed off as scrap by the Delhi University. In the process, two scrap workers lost their lives and many more were exposed to the very harmful Cobalt-60 radiations and now require prolonged medical treatment. A little care and adherence to the safety norms could have prevented this tragic instance of exposure to the harmful radio-active radiations.

Non-observance of safety norms begins right from the time it becomes alive. The Telecommunication industry, according to the data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), has added 16.9 million mobile phone users in April 2010, taking the total number of mobile subscribers in India to 638.05 million. Delhi alone has over 25 million cell phone users and in 2008, it was the first metropolitan city in India to reach near 100% tele-density. By the year 2009, other cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai havw also secured 100% tele-density.

With the sharp increase in the demand for the mobile phones, the number of the cell phone towers in these cities has also increased dramatically. In Delhi in February 2006, there were just 1800 cell phone towers; now there are over 6000 such towers.

The Electromagnetc Radiations (EMR) from the cell phone towers, beyond a certain limit are harmful to the people living in the close vicinity to such towers. In accordance with the international standards, cell tower radiations up to 600 milliwatts/ metre square are considered safe. But, in Delhi, according to a recent study, the radiations from such towers in certain areas such as Connaught Place and Safdarjung Hospital were found to be as high as 400 milliwatts/ metre square, nearly seven times over and above the safety limit.

According to Dr KK Aggarwal, Head of Dept of Cardiology at the Moolchand Hospital at Delhi, the high levels of tower radiations can be very dangerous for patients who use pacemakers.

In countries such as the USA, UK and Canada, there are governmental agencies which regularly carry out radiation audits. In China, cell phone towers areallowed in residential areas, but there are strict guidelines followed to keep the radiation levels below 600 milliwatts/metre square. In India, there are no radiation audits and the telecom companies are expected to exercise self-regulation to ensure that the Electromagnetic Radiation safety limits are adhered to. This self-regulation aspect is some times given a lower priority by the telecom companies in their pursuit for higher turnover. It is obvious that if the telecom industry cannot keep the radiation levels from the cell phone towers within the safety limits, then the government will have to step in to prevent the adverse impact of the higher levels of radiation on the health of the public at large.

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