Potraz seeks to protect public from radiation effects

BY FARAI MATIASHE

THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) is crafting a regulatory framework to protect the public from effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) radiation from telecommunications equipment.

EMF are part of the electromagnetic spectrum which extend from static electric and magnetic fields, through radio frequency, infrared radiation and visible light to X and gamma rays.

Information Communication Technologies (ICT), including mobile phones, power lines and wireless networks, use electromagnetic field energies.

Potraz is this week holding a workshop in Victoria Falls involving various stakeholders, comprising ICT regulators, operators and experts
from Sadc and around the world as part of efforts to come up with the regulatory framework.

Addressing stakeholders on Monday, Potraz deputy director-general Alfred Marisa said the objective of the workshop was to shed more light on the misconceptions surrounding the effects of EMF on humans.

“The topic of health effects of EMF from Telecommunication gadgets has haunted policymakers, regulators, operators and many other stakeholders in equal measure. EMF have been around in different forms since the birth of the universe. They differ by frequency and indeed, visible light is its most familiar form,” he said.

“Mobile networks have had a very positive impact on the socio-economic development of society. However, the majority of people do not care how these communication technologies function. All they know is how to access the services made possible by mobile networks.

“Because of this lack of understanding, a number of sensational claims have been made on the harmful effects on human health of all electromagnetic radiation. Scientific studies have also been carried out to assess the health impact of electromagnetic radiation.”

Marisa said fears of the effects of EMF have sometimes been worsened by inconsistent commentary from people who claimed to be experts as they offer varying opinions.

“Some say there is absolutely no effect if telecommunication installations are done in compliance with set standards. I have also heard some who are a bit circumspect, who put forward a disclaimer and say that, ‘you see these mobile technologies have only been with us for just about 30 years, so, it is possible that their full impact are yet to be felt’. This clearly unsettles the nerves,” he said.

Marisa said some communities had protested against installation of mobile base station towers within their neighbourhoods while some parents have objected to installation of base station towers around schools.

He was, however, hopeful that the workshop would help to create an atmosphere of trust where users of communication services and the general public feel safe and protected from any potential harm.

The Potraz deputy director-general said telecommunication network operators must ensure that their network roll outs are within safety limits and that by end of the workshop stakeholders would be ready to engage in creating Sadc model EMF regulations that are guided by researched knowledge.

Communications Regulators’ Association of Southern Africa head of electronic communications, Bridget Linzie, said her organisation was recognising the vital contribution that wireless communications and its innovations make to the regional economy saying there was need to ensure that the solutions were being offered to Sadc citizens with the most minimal effects to health.

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