Mobile phone towers on a residential building in Bur Dubai. Image Credit: Francois Nel/Gulf News

Dubai: A new legal challenge in India calling for the ban on construction of mobile phone towers on residential buildings is resonating with residents in Dubai who live near or under towers emitting electromagnetic radiation.

Following a report by an inter-ministerial committee in India helmed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that recommends barring mobile phone towers on residential buildings, residents in Dubai are questioning the wisdom of mega antennae positioned so close to their residences.

Indian expat banker Satyam Chibber has lived in Dubai for 15 years and until recently never worried about his health until he shifted to the top level of a residential tower in Bur Dubai only to learn afterwards that the rooftop housed not one but three mobile phone towers.

“My wife is now suffering from migraine headaches and the doctor has given her migraine medicine. Our neighbour’s wife is also suffering from migraines,” he told Gulf News, adding that so far, he has suffered no ill effects since the move.

Given a raft of scientific studies in recent years with some recommending against living within 50 metres of mobile towers, Chibber said he is becoming more unnerved knowing that one of the mobile towers on top of his building is stationed directly above his master bedroom.

“It makes me very uncomfortable knowing that every night when I watch TV or sleep, this mobile tower is directly above us,” he said.

Chibber said he has attempted to call the telecom directly to ask for background information on any dangers the towers might present but he has not been able to get through to du officials.

Gulf News’ requests to the telcom company and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority asking for specific policies on mobile towers as they relate to residential proximity went unanswered.

Chibber asked, “Are authorities were looking at this, are they aware of it? They should do something.”

Health concerns about non-isotopic radioactivity of mobile towers would be well founded, say medical and science experts, given growing evidence amid divided opinions on the health risks associated with powerful towers that emit radiofrequency fields.

In May 2011, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a decision by the International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC) that “classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B) based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless phone use”.

The decision was arrived at after a group of 31 scientists from 14 countries weighed latest research on the dangers associated with transmitting wireless signals to more than five billion mobile phones in use around the world.

Jonathon Samet, chairman of the working group, said in a statement that “the evidence, while still accumulating, is strong enough to support a conclusion and the 2B classification. The conclusion means that there could be some risk, and therefore we need to keep a close watch for a link between cell phones and cancer risk”.

IARC director Christopher Wild said in a statement that “pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands-free devices or texting”.