FEARS that the use of mobile telecommunications devices can cause radiation emission were recently assuaged by the
World Health Organisation (WHO) and other experts at a forum in Lagos hosted by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The safety re-assurance was given at the first West African Conference on Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) and Health with the theme: Harmonising EMF Policy, Exposure Limits, and Risk Communication in West Africa.
Given the importance of the issue in relation to health, the Mobile Manufacturers Forum (MMF) and the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) collaborated with the NCC to stage the event.
The Team Leader of Radiation Programme at the WHO, Dr van Deventer, in her paper titled Establishing a Dialogue on Risks from EMF, said that there was insufficient evidence to show that EMF from the use of mobile phone was harmful. According to her, the only proven negative effect is the heating effect on the CPE. She also debunked the claims attributed to research published a few months ago about mobile phones being possibly carcinogenic.
Chief convener of the event and Nigeria’s chief telecom regulator Dr. Eugene Juwah, represented by the Director of Corporate Strategy at the NCC, Funlola Akiode, also picked holes in the wild allegations of health hazards in the electromagnetic field emissions from mobile devices. According to him, the public is often misled to thinking that electromagnetic emissions from telecommunication facilities is the same or similar to nuclear and radioactive radiations, saying minimal studies have been conducted worldwide and minimal platforms have been provided for the region to debate on possibility of mobile communication having adverse impact on human health and that relevant international bodies are continually monitoring research findings on the field of EMF exposure and its effects on human health.
Dwelling on the inseparable relationship between human beings and telecommunications equipment and the unending fears on radiation hazards, the EVC said that “telecommunications have become an integral part of our life; providing services that range from phone connection, entertainment, information and learning over a broad range of media”.
Using statistical imperatives to draw attention to the need to improve quality of service delivery through increased installation of masts, Juwah noted that Nigeria had about 20,000 masts and towers while Britain, a country with a smaller population, had about 60,000 in urban areas alone. He said that unlike Britain, which has a lot of high-rise buildings that serve as the base for mast installations, Nigeria had fewer such buildings.
In his presentation by proxy, Nigeria’s health minister, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu, said that research findings had been mixed, with some implicating EMF radiations from high-tension cables in cancer of the blood, leukaemia in children, while others were saying there was no association because there was limited evidence to support that.
Head, Telecommunications Division, Transport and Telecom Directorate at the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Raphael Kofi, in his paper titled EMF Policy Survey in the ECOWAS Region, said the Commission was committed to the establishment of a single liberalised telecoms/ICT market in West Africa that would facilitate the deployment of telecoms/ICT for reliable and affordable communication services in the region.
In support of this drive, he said the Commission embarked on the implementation of an interconnected regional broadband infrastructure in the ECOWAS region and harmonisation of the telecommunication/ICT policy and regulatory framework to set up the ECOWAS Telecom/ICT common market (cooperation).
The immediate past chairman of ICNIRP, Dr. Paolo Vecchia, represented by van Deventer stated in his paper: “It is the opinion of ICNIRP that the scientific literature published since the 1998 guidelines has provided no evidence of any adverse effects below the basic restrictions and does not necessitate an immediate revision of its guidance on limiting exposure to high frequency electromagnetic fields.” Though, he stressed, the conclusions were his personal views.