The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), a mobile communications association representing six of the largest mobile service operators and the majority of telecom equipment manufacturers and network service providers in India, released a statement based on "collated the views of independent experts from various disciplines to dispel the various myths about mobile emissions."
COAI (analogous to CTIA in the States), took to “asserting the truth” behind the highly debated link between mobile technology and cancer. The association brought together experts from various relevant disciplines such as oncology, radiology, molecular and physical science and World Health Organization (WHO) as part of the series "Mobile Networks and Public Health"—to "dispel unwarranted fears of harmful effects health hazards from the emissions from antennae on mobile phone towers and handsets."
Depending on which expert, which organization and which government, harm from electromagnetic fields (EMF) and wireless technologies (radio frequency – RF- radiation) is either a myth as COAI puts it, or a dire concern.
COAI Experts Talk
"We have been using X-ray radiations for more than 115 years, and we still haven’t been able to establish the relationship of cancer and radiation to any great extent. And the mobile tower radiation is inherently a type of radiation that we believe does not produce any kind of significant harm to humans," said Dr. Bhavin Jankharia, a Mumbai based radiologist and President of Indian Radiology & Imaging Association.
The premise of x-rays is supposed to support his theory on mobile, but don’t refuse to wear the lead vest at the dentist just yet. To the question: Do x-rays and gamma rays cause cancer? The American Cancer Society unequivocally says, "Yes."
Evidence for this conclusion comes from a wide variety of sources, according to the organization’s website—from studying atomic bomb survivors, nuclear accident victims, people having been treated with high doses of radiation and those in high–risk professions, like uranium miners.
While those cases seem extreme, the American Cancer Society says, "Most scientists and regulatory agencies agree that even small doses of gamma and x-radiation increase cancer risk."
More COAI Experts
Massive growth in the number of mobile phones in India has given rise to concerns regarding the effect of EMF emissions from the antennas on the cell towers and mobile phones on human health. COAI says that "myths without any reasonable scientific basis have been floated by people with vested business interests that the EMF emissions lead to health hazards." Ironic, coming from an association representing the industry that benefits from the opposite.
COAI provided highlights of the video series in a release including commentary from Professor R V Hosur, Senior Professor, Department of Chemical Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) who said: "Ionising radiation causes damage to the molecules – they break the chemical bonds and can cause health hazards. But non-ionizing radiations (from mobile tower antennae and phones) do not cause the breakage of bonds and do not cause damage to the molecules. Non-ionizing radiation such as mobile emission causes only local change in temperature depending on the extent of use."
Rejecting fears arising out of the classification of mobile emissions as "possibly carcinogenic," Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, Oncologist, Columbia University and Indian-born American physician, scientist and the Pulitzer prize winning writer of the book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, said: "If there is a link between EMF and Cancer, I think it must be occurring through a mechanism that lies outside anything that we know about the standard mechanisms of carcinogenesis. One would have to invent a novel mechanism of carcinogenesis in order to understand how radiation in that part of the spectrum can cause cancer."
Lastly, India’s "top" brain-tumor specialist, Dr. Rakesh Jalali, Professor, Radiation Oncology and Convener, Neuro Oncology Group, Tata Medical Centre said: "The RF waves used in the mobile phone technology are probably at the lowest end of the electromagnetic spectrum and does not cause any DNA kill."
Professor Michael Repacholi, Chairman Emeritus of ICNIRP and Ex-EMF Project Coordinator, World Health Organization said: "WHO fact sheet states very clearly that the mobile phones do not cause cancer. A number of studies conducted to ascertain relationship between the electromagnetic radiation and cancer have not found anything to indicate mobile radiation causing cancer."
While in 2011, WHO declared, "To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use;" in 2013, however, it added, "the lack of data for mobile phone use over time periods longer than 15 years warrant further research of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk."
Still, Repacholi went as far as reassuring pregnant women about EMF radiation from mobile tower antennae and handsets, saying that "the penetration depth of the EMF is only 1-2 mm, so it never really gets close to the fetus in any significant amount to cause any damage."
This assurance is shocking considering, a 2012 study from Yale School of Medicine, which reported that exposure to radiation from cell phones during pregnancy affects the brain development of offspring.
More recently (June 2014), an international group of doctors and scientific experts joined with non-profit organizations to urge pregnant women to limit their exposure to wireless radiation from cell phones and other devices by taking simple steps to protect themselves and their unborn children.
The national public awareness campaign, called the BabySafe Project, is being coordinated by Grassroots Environmental Education and Environmental Health Trust, and is based on independent scientific research linking exposure to wireless radiation from cell phones during pregnancy to neurological and behavioral problems in offspring that resemble Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children.
Studying the Studies
Furthermore, covering 1,800 studies, the BioInitiative 2012 report, from the BioInitiative Working Group, reviewed the growing health risks from chronic exposure to EMF and radio frequency radiation including brain tumors, neurological diseases, cancer, DNA damage, effects on memory, learning, behavior, attention, sleep disruption, fertility and reproduction.
At that time, the authors concluded, "There is now much more evidence of risks to health affecting billions of people worldwide. The status quo is not acceptable in light of the evidence for harm."
The organization, in April 2014, provided an update, covering new studies, and said evidence for health risk from wireless tech is growing stronger and warrants immediate action. New studies intensify medical concerns about malignant brain tumors from cell phone use.
"There is a consistent pattern of increased risk for glioma (a malignant brain tumor) and acoustic neuroma with use of mobile and cordless phones" said Lennart Hardell, MD, PhD at Orebro University, Sweden, according to studies released in 2012 and 2013. "Epidemiological evidence shows that radiofrequency should be classified as a known human carcinogen. The existing FCC/IEEE and ICNIRP public safety limits are not adequate to protect public health."
The BioInitiative reports nervous system effects in 68% of studies on radiofrequency radiation (144 of 211 studies) in 2014. This has increased from 63% in 2012 (93 of 150 studies) in 2012. Studies of extremely-low frequency radiation are reported to cause nervous system effects in 90% of the 105 studies available in 2014. Genetic effects (damage to DNA) from radiofrequency radiation is reported in 65% (74 of 114 studies); and 83% (49 of 59 studies) of extremely-low frequency studies.
10 Safer Practices
For now, it’s user beware. Remember, cigarettes were once rations for the military and touted as a weight loss tool, and industrial waste was dumped into waterways—all thought to be just fine practices at the time.
Patricia Wood, a Visiting Scholar at Adelphi University and Executive Director of Grassroots Environmental Education stated, "More research is needed to determine exactly how the developing brain is affected, but in the meantime, we certainly have enough evidence of potential harm to recommend taking simple, common-sense precautions."
The BabySafe Project is promoting 10 simple steps women, in particular, can take to limit their exposure to wireless radiation, but they serve as good guidelines for any user who wants to practice safer cell phone use.
1. Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body (e.g. in a pocket or bra).
2. Avoid holding any wireless device against your body when in use.
3. Use your cell phone on speaker setting or with an "air tube" headset.
4. Avoid using your wireless device in cars, trains or elevators.
5. Avoid cordless phones, especially where you sleep.
6. Whenever possible, connect to the Iternet with wired cables.
7. When using Wi-Fi, connect only to download, then disconnect and disable Wi-Fi.
8. Avoid prolonged or direct exposure to nearby Wi-Fi routers.
9. Unplug your home Wi-Fi router when not in use.
10. Sleep as far away from wireless utility meters (i.e. "smart" meters) as possible.