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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mobile phone emissions divide stakeholders


Worried by the rumours over mobile phone emissions, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) took advantage of the Telecom Parliament platform to enlighten consumers on the issue. REMMY NWEKE who was there reports.

The 51st edition of the Telecom Consumer Parliament hosted by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), for the month of April 2009, ended with divergent views from Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) stakeholders in the country.

Summing up his position, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, allayed the fears that mobile phones were yet to be scientifically classified as a dangerous instrument as far as emissions from such tools are concerned based on a known investigation.

Wiki.Answers.com defined emission as “letting of something, mostly in the air, anything from body gas to carbon.”

This classification became apparent based on the question raised at the floor of the parliament by one of the participants on the effect of mobile phone emissions and viability of fertility, which experts at NewScientist.com clarified that there is no suggestion whatsoever that human fertility is affected negatively, but on the contrary, recent researches showed since 2002 that biological effects are possible without any warming of tissues.

However, Ndukwe noted during the event held at Eko Club, Surulere, Lagos, mobile phone “don’t pose the kind of danger like most people think but caution is the word,” advising Nigerians, mostly telecom consumers, to be cautious of the kind of information they absorb as not everything or claims made by some people are true.

While receiving the Director General, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Dr. (Mrs) Ngeri S. Benebo and her team, recently in his office, EVC Ndukwe, assured that NCC, would not allow telecommunications or the operators to endanger lives of Nigerians in the process of carrying out their telecommunications business, stressing that the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) technology is a mobile system that functions effectively with base stations, explaining that what the Commission has done was to set guidelines to checkmate the erection of such towers and masts in order to create a standard.

He cited for instance, that some studies have shown that mainland Britain alone has over 40,000 towers while Nigeria currently has about 15,000.

“The difference shows in the quality of telecommunications services available in the two countries, although Nigerian operators are continuing with their roll out of base stations in order to improve their services. Without base stations, you have no communications,” he said.

Ndukwe noted that in the past there have been all kinds of health concerns expressed about base stations, especially those located in residential areas, maintaining that although the steel structure of a mast may look imposing, “it is only the small antenna at the top that has any connection with radiation,” thus, the output might be very negligible.

“The radiation from the electric pole is more; even a TV antenna radiates more power,” he said, pledging on the readiness of NCC to work with other agencies like NESREA in order to give the best to the Nigerian people.

“As government agencies, it is mandatory for us to engage in continuous discourse,” he said.

Commending the success of the telecommunications industry, Dr. Benebo noted that even as Nigeria keys into breakthrough in this sector in order to meet up with modern challenges, it is imperative that key players are properly regulated and encouraged to adopt the environment friendly and best available technologies.

“There is also need to check the proliferation of communication masts with due regard to human rights, public health and environmental quality,” she advocated.

Also speaking at the last Telecom parliament, the national president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, said, Nigeria as a developing nation should focus more on the merits of ICT tools rather than paying attention to the hazards of mobile phones alone, which in the real sense accounts to a minute portion, when compared with the merits.

Driving home his point, Ekuwem asked participants, if the nation should go back to the era of NITEL with its scarcity of telephone not to mention exorbitant mobile phones. Equally responding to the question on the possibilities of mobile phones causing explosion, a Lagos-based physicist, Mr. Ayo Ibetoye, noted that the rumour over mobile phone emission, especially over explosion from a mobile battery, are all yet to be proved with empirical evidences.

Responding to these claims and counter claims, President, Biopro Technology Nigeria Limited, Mr. Sam Iheanacho, said that the recently launched Biopro chips into the country were duly certified by Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).

He explained that BioPro products including the Cell Chip, Universal Chip and iwater, just as these products offer solution to electro-magnetic radiations (EMR), electro-magnetic frequencies (EMF) and problems associated with poor potable water in the country.

Mr. Iheanacho, also said he was inspired on humanitarian grounds to give to the Nigerian society these health and wellness package for a healthier living, stressing that Biopro was founded to create awareness of the dangers of electro-pollution in the environment and to collaborate with its technical partners, the American Medical

Team for Africa (AMTA) to provide the best health care for Nigerians.

“Our mission is to sensitize the Nigerian public about the concerns of EMR and EMF emitted by cell phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDA), Bluetooth, headsets, masts, microwaves, hair dryers, amongst others, which have been linked to serious stress-induced health issues,” he said.

He further said that the vision of the company goes beyond business profitability and focuses on service and humanity, emphasizing that they are committed to partnering with federal health agencies, relevant committees of the National Assembly, private telecommunication operators, state and local governments as well as corporate organizations in their healthcare delivery programmes to the citizenry.

Iheanacho pointed out that Biopro cell and universal chips would help to protect against the dangerous radiation associated with cell phones, cordless phones, computers and other EMF emitting devices.

“It is a must-have for anyone who is concerned about the effects of electro-pollution in our environment,” he declared.

In addition, global leader in telecommunications equipment manufacturing subsector, Ericsson, maintained that its base stations are free of emissions likely to cause cancer of any kind.

Affirming this, the Communications Manager, Ericsson Nigeria, Mr. Olabode Sowunmi, told ITRealms Online that over the years, there are studies by experts on the possible adverse health effects as a result of radiofrequency fields from mobile phones or base stations, which have been consistent as none have conclusive evidence from mobile phones or base stations.

“Regarding possible adverse health effects due to exposure for radiofrequency fields from mobile phones or base stations there are numerous independent expert reviews which have all given consistent conclusions,” he said.

Sowunmi also noted that even the World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded, mostly in its expert review fact sheet 193 that exposure to radiofrequency fields has no linkage to health consequences.

“None of the recent reviews have concluded that exposure to the RFfields from mobile phones or their base stations cause any adverse health consequence,” he declared.

According to him, in one of the most recent expert reviews performed by the European Commission SCENIHR (Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks) published in January 2009, he quoted the study as stating that it is doubtful from three major independent fields that radiofrequency, otherwise call emissions, could cause cancer in human beings.

“It is concluded from three independent lines of evidence, namely epidemiological, animal and in vitro studies; that exposure to RFfields is unlikely to lead to an increase in cancer in humans,” he said.

Equally, he said that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report released last October 8, 2008, has indeed commented on possible adverse health effects of mobile phone, just as he was quick to add that IARC has been conducting a major epidemiological study called INTERPHONE on mobile phone use and possible association with head and neck tumors.

The study, he said, is now completed but the overall combined results from all 13 countries have not yet been published.

“Overall, the available results from the INTERPHONE study, so far, do not show any association between mobile phone use and risk to develop brain tumor. The comment in the IARC report regarding increased risk for glioma refers to a joint INTERPHONE publication from the Nordic countries and part of the UK. In this publication no overall increased risk for brain tumors was found among mobile phone users regardless of number of years or intensity of use,” he said.

Sowunmi emphasized that though a slightly increased risk was observed among long
term phone users when analyzing a small subset of the data for those who reported use of the phone on the same side as location of the tumor.

The authors, he said, however, cautioned that “Recall bias may affect the reported side of mobile phone use if cases over report use on the side where the tumor was diagnosed.”

He further advised on the importance of waiting for the final publication of the full INTERPHONE study and also to take all other relevant studies into account.

“Numerous international expert reviews on the health and safety of mobile telephony have given consistent conclusions on absence of adverse health effects due to exposure to RF fields from mobile phones or base stations,” he insisted.

Vice chairman, Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Wale Goodluck, concurred with Sowunmi, maintaining that there is yet no evidence to backup any claims alleging that mobile phone usage or its infrastructure pose danger to the populace.

Most of all, experts submitted that caution is the word, whilst we await for the latest of WHO reports on mobile phones’ related radiation, there is need to avoid long stay on mobile phone every given time or one side of the ear and if possible prevent mobile phones touching your skin directly, mostly during heat, as well as remaining environmentally good user by adhering to notices at the airports, petrol stations and some other public places.

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