Do cell phone towers pose a risk to healthDoes any reality lie in the existence of the link between mobile phone towers and cancer? The Kasliwals believe that there is some connection after the two of the three brothers were diagnosed with brain cancer. This happened when three towers were set up near their C-scheme neighbourhood in Jaipur. They have been experiencing minor and major illnesses since their diagnosis. No member of the Kasliwal family had ever developed cancer. Sanjay Kasliwal, belonging to a family of prominent jewellers in Jaipur says, “My younger brother Pramod and I were diagnosed with brain cancer last year. Pramod’s condition is serious.”

Pramod Kasliwal is now admitted to Medanta Medicity in Gurgaon, after taking treatment at the New York Presbyterian Hospital in the US. He says that the towers were installed without the permission of the Jaipur Municipal Corporation (JMC).

A cancer surgeon at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, Dr. Sameer Kaul said, “Even with cellphone use, benign swelling in the brain and head, hearing disorders, headaches and anxiety neurosis are well established”

On the other hand, the industry does not agree with it. The director general of Cellular Operators Association of India, Rajan S. Mathews said, “No conclusive evidence exists that proves that the level of EMF prescribed by the International Commission for radiation protection poses dangers to the health of people.” However, people whose health has been affected believe the opposite. AK Anand, in an attempt to move the mobile phone tower from his neighbourhood for 5 years asks why laws and limits were being set if the towers were so safe.

According to the World Health Organization’s International Agency or Research on Cancer (IARC), radiation emitted from mobile phones and towers are considered carcinogenic to humans and are responsible for causing glioma, which is a type of a brain cancer. Towers emit radiation at higher levels 24 hours a day, which makes them even more damaging than cell phones.

In 2009, an inter-ministerial committee of experts on electromagnetic radiation exposure from cell phone towers states, “It is the base stations and their antennas that are more of concern. This is because they constantly emit radio frequency.”

540,000 mobile phone towers were present in India by the end of 2010 while there were a total of 5,364 towers both legal and illegal, in Delhi alone.

It’s not just Jaipur that is affected by this problem. In Mumbai, a housewife and Wadala resident, Sushila Shah, aged 57, could not believe that the reason for her cancer lay 50 feet away. 20 cell towers were installed on the terrace of the building next to her house. When she asked the experts to check the radiation levels in her house, she found that high radiation levels existed¬† at the terrace and was considered a danger zone. On the other hand, the caution zone consisted of the bedroom, kitchen and hall. Sushila explained that because of the radiation from the towers, she, along with her family had been experiencing headaches, body pain, fatigue, skin rashes and intolerable itching every day.

Anand living in west Delhi’s Vikas Puri H-block says, “7 years ago, when a tower was set up in our area, I noticed that even birds started avoiding our locality. Without getting the consent of the residents, 5 towers were installed in our neighbourhood and nearby areas.”

Mahender Nagpal, leader of the house, north Delhi Municipal Corporation said, “Cellular towers cannot be put up without the residents’ agreement. That is illegal. There is an option of making complaints at the MCD’s office of their area.” Unfortunately, complaining to the MCD has not been an effective solution for the Anands so now, they are planning to move to court to get the towers removed.

Kasliwals also tried following the same approach and went to a number of regulators and service providers, but their attempt did not prove to be fruitful. Jyoti Khandelwal, Jaipur Mayor says, “No rule exists in JMC for the regulation of cell phone towers. We tried to make the bylaws for the mobile towers and sent them for approval of the state government, but we still haven’t got the permission, because of some legal complications. The state government will be replying in court and will further instruct JMC.” Disapointed in the civic authorities and the regulators, Kasliwals have finally filed a petition for the removal of the towers.

However, moving towers is not an answer. There is no point in the whole process if the towers will be installed somewhere else. A real solution would be to reduce the transmitted power. To attain this, the power amplifier needs to be removed or the gain of the antenna can be reduced. This will help in decreasing the coverage area. Another thing that can be done is installing tall towers. Towers located near schools and hospitals should be removed.

Towers from the neighbourhoods of many celebrities, including Juhi Chawla has been shifted to other places, close by. Now, people living in those areas are being affected by the radiation. This is why towers should not be shifted, the transmitted power should be rather reduced.

The Suradhkar family belonging to Dadar now relies on radiation-shielding machines, shielding films on windows, radiation blocking curtains and wallpapers, to protect themselves from radiation emitted from 12 cell towers located on their terrace. Suradkar suffers from a brain tumour. Two towers were installed outside their bedroom and kitchen which were finally removed. Sudhakar Suradkar, a retired Inspector General of police (IGP) said, “After some time, it dawned upon us that all those problems that we were facing like headaches, persistent coughing and itchiness were because of the radiation that the towers were emitting.”

Sanjhana Bhalerao advises people, “Do not fall for these tower companies when they offer you money.” He believes that strict measures should be taken to track such companies.

A lot of people have made complaints to the authorities for the removal of the tower, but even this has not helped. People residing in Model Town-II, North Delhi, have been requesting the Munipal Council of Delhi for four years to remove the two mobile phone towers that were put up in their neighbourhood eight years ago. Their requests have not been answered. The Luthras and their neighbours have finally decided to move to Court as the Delhi police, MCD and other government departments did not do anything about their complaint letters.

Luthra said, “My daughter-in-law felt nauseous most of the time and had headaches, my son and grandson felt irritable all the time and my immunity was greatly affected. Police commissioner, YK Dadwal called me after receiving my complaint and said that they would deal with this situation, but didn’t do anything about it.”

Javika Shah, aged 58, living in Girgaum in south Mumbai, told that eight years ago cell phone companies installed transmitters outside her bedroom. Later, she started having headaches, which were not like ordinary headaches. She felt a strain on her nerves and the pain was excruciating. She could not sleep well and experienced insomnia.

When her house was tested for radiation, high levels of radiation were recorded in all the rooms. “The reason behind installing these towers in residential areas was to have better network connectivity. The residents agreed to the installation of towers without being aware of the consequences. Window films and wallpapers are too expensive to afford. I want the removal of these towers for everyone’s safety.”

The relationship of the rising number of cancer patients and other health hazards, with the existence of mobile phone towers in residential areas has been recognized by the residents of Peddar Road. Agarwal, living on the top floor of Maheshwari Niketan has also been affected by the radiation. Her doctor confirmed that her health problems were caused by radiation only. Sleeplessness and headache were the symptoms of radiation, which were also found in her children.

Two victims of cancer caused by radiation are already dead. There are educational institutions, a hospital that is very famous and a number of residential towers on the Peddar Road. Maheshwari Niketan has been reported to have 18-20 transmitters on her terrace. There are chances that this number will increase in a few years. People inhabiting the Peddar Road had demanded to get the towers removed from their terrace a few months ago. Agarwal said, “There is nothing that I can do to protect myself and my family.Only the civic body can make rules and policies to make this situation better. It would be a shame to have people killed for some money.”