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Supreme Court of India rules to shut down cell tower after man’s cancer claim

Why it matters to you

While it's doubtful this will set any global precedent, building future cell towers in India may become more problematic.

Can radio signals from a cell tower cause cancer? The Supreme Court of India seems to think so. In a unique case, the court ruled to shut down a cell tower after a man alleged that radiation from the tower is the cause of his cancer.

The man, Harish Chand Tiwari, approached India’s apex court — the country’s largest court — about the tower in 2016. The tower was owned and operated by Indian telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). According to Tiwari, the tower was illegally installed on his friend’s roof — which happened to be less than 50 meters away from his house. Tiwari says he was exposed to “radiation” for 14 years — which he suggests is what afflicted him with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“We direct that the particular mobile tower shall be deactivated by BSNL within seven days from today,” said Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Navin Sinha, according to the Times of India. This tower will be the first to close based on an individual petition alleging harmful radiation.

It’s important to note a few things. Despite numerous scientific studies, cell towers have yet to be proven to be the cause of any kind of cancer or other illness. We grilled a variety of experts recently on whether cell phones cause brain cancer, and found valid facts and opinions on both sides. Still, many refute the studies, and citizens in India have even attempted to block the installation of cell towers in their neighborhood, Mashable reported. India’s IT and Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad even had to address the concerns himself.

“Mobile towers are not harmful! Doesn’t America have mobile towers? Doesn’t Europe have mobile towers? There [sic] tele-density is much higher than in India. This planned campaign against [installation of] mobile towers is totally uncalled for,” Prasad said in a statement.

This case does set a precedent, at least in India and it will be interesting to see if more people follow up with similar claims.