April 17, 2014
Updated: April 17, 2014 02:18 IST
An unscientific report on ‘mitigating’ EM radiation effects
UNTAINTED: No adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use, the WHO states. Photo: C. Ratheesh Kumar
The document hardly has any scientific basis, uses scary language and is riddled with questionable claims
On March 27, 2014, the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) uploaded a draft document titled “Guidelines for mitigation of the effects of electromagnetic radiations in built places” on its website (accessed on April 15). The document hardly has any scientific basis.
The document uses scary language, too. “Electromagnetic radiations are energy waves having time varying electric and magnetic fields at right angles to each other and form the most pervasive and prominent man-made hazard in today’s environment. These can also be termed as electromagnetic pollutants exposing human beings to greater health risks.”
“The electromagnetic fields of vast array of frequencies and magnitude so caused in the vicinity of human habitat may result into irreversible bodily changes which may be damaging and sometimes fatal too,” the booklet states. The document abounds with such statements.
The World Health Organisation has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation as a possible group 2b carcinogen. This 2b group contains possible carcinogens with weaker evidence.
The authors of the booklet do not know that in June 2011, shortly after the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified electromagnetic radiation under 2b group, WHO stated thus: “A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”
The booklet lists loss of memory, fatigue, dizziness, ringing in the ears, long reaction time heart palpitation, and cancer etc as health risks from electromagnetic radiation. Responsible agencies such as WHO and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) of the United Kingdom, among others, do not support the conclusion that EM radiation causes such effects.
The document has four chapters; chapters 3 and 4, titled Guidelines and Other Suggestions and Measures respectively are riddled with questionable claims.
In chapter 3, the authors have listed laptops, computers, transformers, light sources, Server room etc to appreciate “dangers” of electromagnetic radiation and prescribed safe distances, a few feet to a few tens of feet, for them.
The report states that this data comes from onsite experience and from measurement with an instrument called Lecher Antenna.
Chapter 4 describes the so called ‘Geopathic Stress Radiations (GSR)’ emanating from the magnetic core of the earth and claims that geopathic stress causes health problems such as resistance to treatment, feeling run down and exhausted, depression etc and cancer in some cases (http://www.geopathicstress.ie/effects-of-geopathic-stress.html).
Such theories come from followers of some concepts, beliefs and unconventional practices. Any one reading this ref 5, in the CPWD booklet may realise that the guidelines are on shaky ground!
The Guidelines quotes Baron Gustav von Pohl of Germany who during 1930s claimed that 95 per cent of all cancer cases have connections to Geopathic Stress Radiations to highlight the need for surveying building sites for GSR!
Relying on this unfounded observation, the CPWD booklet wants that “new buildings to be surveyed for Geopathic Stress Radiations and locations of people and services to be planned in a manner that these are not located on them.” The authors suggest that the entire area should be checked for the presence of GSR by a trained engineer by scanning it by a “Lecher Antenna.”
The inter departmental committee consisting of officers from CPWD, Town and Country Planning Organization (Ministry of Urban Development), Bureau of Indian Standards and Dr Umesh Chandra Garga, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, New Delhi and Shri Ajay Poddar, M/s Syenergy Environics Ltd, New Delhi among others formulated the guidelines.
Shri Ajay Poddar is the Managing Director of Syenergy Environics Ltd, the web page of which states that “the endeavours of the company are focused in one direction — to correct the negative radiations and enhance the positivity in the environment.”
The company has developed a product called Enviro chip; the chip is effective in guarding people and devices (mobile phone, Wi-Fi systems, computers and laptops etc) against harmful electronic radiation, the company claims.
Besides other claims, its website carries news items titled “Earth’s radiation and its effect on people,” “Using of Lecher Antenna,” “A guardian chip for your health and gizmos,” among others. The report does not contain a disclosure of conflict of interest.
The CPWD booklet is simple; it uses no complex jargon or jarring colour combination. It is eminently readable as it is, at 27 pages, of the right size. The value, if any, of the document just ends there.
Former Secretary, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board