New Delhi: Health Ministry is unaware of a WHO report which says radiations emanating from mobile towers can "possibly cause cancer", the Central Information Commission has noted in its order while asking it to explain measures taken to inform people of its harmful effects.
The Commission had sought a compliance report from Environment Ministry, Health Ministry, Telecom Ministry, DDA and other stakeholders on the issue of growing number of mobile towers in the city and their impact on the health of citizens. It had also sought to know why mobile radiations are not declared as air pollutants.
During the hearing as a follow up of the notice, Central Pollution Control Board submitted a detailed note saying Radio Frequency Radiation (RFR) has not been declared as air pollutants but it is better not not to install cell phone towers near hospitals, schools, residential colonies etc.As they are somewhat hazardous to the health of the people living in the surrounding.
The note mentioned that nuclear radiations and X rays have capacity to break chemical bond of DNA and can lead to mutation of cells DNA and cancer, but RFR are not strong enough to break chemical bond and is thus not harmful.
Disputing it, the appellant Surech Chandra Gupta said large number of studies from different parts of globe indicated harmful impact of RFR and WHO categorised RFR as possible carcinogenic.
"It may be noted that WHO (in May 2011) could also have declared RFR as 'carcinogenic' or 'not carcinogenic', but WHO has declared it as possible carcinogenic," he submitted.
During the hearing before Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu,Gupta produced an RTI reply from the Health Ministry saying it was not aware of WHO notification and no other action like conducting study, has been initiated by it.
He said according to The Air (Prevention and Control of pollution) Act, 1981 and Environment (Protection) Act 1986,?"air pollutant" means "any solid, liquid or gaseous substance (including noise) present in the atmosphere in such concentration as may be or tend to be injurious to human beings or other living creatures or plants or property or environment".
Gupta said nature of RFR is similar to noise and other air pollutants and RFR has harmful effect on human beings and living creatures.
"Report of Inter-Ministerial Committee, 2010 has clearly brought out that presence of RF radiation tend to be injurious to human beings and other living creatures like bees, birds etc. The extent of harmful effect will depend upon the exposure level and duration of exposure," he claimed.
On the basis of Inter Ministerial Committee report 2010, Gupta said human and other living creatures are exposed to many types of radiations (including radiations from Sun etc.) and human body has natural capability to repair damage to its cells.
"When extent of damage to cells exceeds the repair capacity, the cells mutate and may lead to cancer.RFR is like a slow poison and may cause cancer in few years or few decades depending upon extent of exposure and its duration.In view of this, it is necessary to adopt precautionary approach," he claimed.
Gupta also questioned the role of Telecom Engineering Centre which had also claimed that it was not aware of the WHO report declaring RFR as possible carcinogen.
"In the Inter Ministerial Expert Committee out of eight members, five members were from DoT, including DDG (R) from TEC. This report deliberates about number of international reports on harmful effects of RF radiations. The committee meetings were held in second half of 2010 and report may have been submitted in 2010 end or 2011," Gupta submitted.
He said WHO notification declaring RF radiations as possible carcinogenic was released on May 31, 2011.
"Representative of DoT was member of the Expert Committee which prepared report on the Possible impacts of Communication Towers on Wildlife including Birds and Bees.
"In this report WHO notification was also deliberated. TEC provided false reply in 2013 that it is not aware about WHO notification of 2011 and its complete silence in its internal approval notes on harmful effects of RFR is also surprising," he said.
Taking note of the submissions made by Gupta, Acharyulu directed the Environment Ministry and Health Ministry to explain what measures they are taking up to educate people on these harmful effects.
He also directed the Telecom Ministry to explain what measures they have taken to reduce the harm of radiation from Cell Phone Towers.
Taking a stern action against DDA, Acharyulu issued a show cause notice as to why maximum penalty should not be imposed against it for not implementing its orders going ahead with another public notification inviting tenders for unrestricted installation of Cell Phone Towers in Delhi.