The Centre launched a fast-track system on Thursday to address citizen complaints regarding suspected high radiation from mobile phone towers. The complaint handling system for electro-magnetic field (EMF) radiation will include a helpline and an online facility. The EMF exposure limit has been lowered to 1/10 th of the standards in 90 per cent of the countries from September 1, 2012.
The department of telecommunications (DoT) mechanism also includes five monitoring teams that will receive complaints and conduct audits and checks to determine violations.
There will be no charge for the service to complainants, instead the mobile service provider will have to pay Rs 10,000 and would be fined Rs 5 lakh, if radiation is found to be higher than permissible in tests. Otherwise, complainants will have to pay Rs 4,000.
“With the city having a high density of population and use of mobile phones growing, we decided to launch the service in Mumbai. This system will help build capacity to monitor and measure radiation levels. By ensuring there is a processing fee, frivolous complaints with vested interstes can be avoided,” said minister of state for communications and information technology Milind Deora, who inaugurated the system.
The telecom enforcement and monitoring cell of DoT has so far received over 150 complaints of health hazards caused by radiation. Of these, 15 have been addressed.
While the cell could inspect only about two sites in a week, the new system is expected to conduct tests at at least 20 sites per day. It will ensure complaints are addressed within ten days.
“We receive complaints headaches, joint pain, anxiety, lack of concentration, sleep disturbances and cancer, in some cases, from residents living near mobile towers (including the 28,300 in the city),” said a senior DoT official.
Meanwhile, DoT is also planning to set up a centre to test specific absorption rate (SAR) levels of handsets. The lower the cell phone SAR, the lower the electromagnetic radiation exposure and potential health risks.
“We are planning to set up an SAR laboratory in Delhi by December-end and another in Mumbai by March-end,” said the official.
The department plans to inspect handsets of various companies before market launches for possibile SAR level violations.