After Birds And Bees, Will Mobiles Do Us In?

Jun 23, 2010

We went to an animal fair,
The birds and bees were there…

These are the first two lines of a popular nursery school song which may not ring true in years to come because radiation from mobile communication towers, and mobiles, is progressively killing birds and bees, especially the smaller birds like sparrows. Such sparrows used to abound on a tree outside our flat in Bombay and we would wake up to their low decibel chirping. When we shifted to our cottage at Bondel in Mangalore ten years ago, sparrows had built their nests in the hollow of the ceiling fan bushings below the hook. Many advised us to let them be because they are harbingers of babies.  With both of us retired, that would be hoping against hope. Since they messed up the place we had to chase them away. But, there were plenty of them around, especially outside the corner kirana store, gorging on spilt grains. Now I don’t see them any more either at Bondel or Bombay.
The little bee returns from evening’s gloom,
To join her comrades in the braided hive,
Where housed beside their mighty honey-comb
They dream their polity shall long survive.

 - Charles Tennyson Turner, English poet (1808-1879).

Today, instead of dreaming, bees should be dreading about their survival. The dim prospects about the survival of bees, and birds, have been brought about by our ubiquitous and ever-increasing mobiles (cell-phones) and the radiation-radiating communication towers that make them functional. Their damaging impact on living beings has long been suspected – like my own anecdotal account above - but now evidence is surfacing to confirm the suspicions - the latest being a study at Panjab University, Chandigarh, by Neelima Kumar, of Zoology Department, and Ved Prakash Sharma, of the Department of Environment and published in Current Science.
The new study has established that electromagnetic radiation from cell-phones is wreaking havoc on the homing instinct of bees. Unable to return home, the bees remain alone in the open and perish since they are able to sustain themselves only in the social hierarchy of their hives. Bees orient themselves through the interaction between tiny paramagnetic particles in their bodies and magnetic field of the earth. “But any other magnetic radiation causes interference with this mechanism”, says the study. Exposing a colony of bees to radiation from two mobile phones for just 30 minutes twice a week for three months had disastrous consequence. The number of homing bees fell from 36 before radiation to 28 after. Their pollen foraging efficiency, too, fell – from an average of 6.3 to 4.6 worker bees returning with pollen loads per minute. And their honey stores – measured in sq. cms. of hive space - fell from 3,200 to 400.
While the study did not investigate how the radiation affected physiology of bees, it did find that the exposure to radiation impaired the egg-laying capacity of the queen bee. A queen bee that was studied produced 144 eggs per day under exposure to radiation, quite a fall from the average 545 per day.
Any drastic fall from the number of bees is sure to have dire consequences on agriculture, given the vital role they play in pollinating crops. “Around 80% of our crops are pollinated by bees,” says the study. “So there is that risk, even if in the long term. What we tried to show that the benefits of cell-phones come with certain risk - just like with DDT. So their use has to be regulated.”
Other sources of radiation – such as cell-phone communication towers, high tension electricity cables - have the same impact on bees, and possibly other life forms too. The findings are very much in line with the growing belief that exposure to radiation from cell-phones and communication towers could have killed off sparrows, hardly seen in some cities these days. In fact, another study by Sharma, who has just finished a thesis on the impact of cell-phone radiation on animals and plants, found that exposing hen’s eggs to four hours of cell-phone radiation increased the mortality of chicks by over 40%. This was because the development of the heart and brain was severely impaired in the embryonic stage. In Sharma’s studies, even seeds exposed to radiation have reported stunted growth.
All this throws up the next big question - what impact is radiation from wireless communication towers and cell-phones having on humans? The Cellular Operators Association of India maintains there is none, but doubts are being allowed more space now. On May 31, 2010 the Delhi High Court asked the Centre to set up an expert committee to examine potential health hazards from communication towers. In   August 2009, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests cited the lack of any published long-term research studies that conclusively show the adverse impacts of cell-phones on birds, including sparrows, as an impediment to any meaningful intervention. But, now the evidence is beginning to be available and is being acted on.
On June 15, 2010, the mayor of San Francisco, USA, called for a vote for imposing roughly the same cautionary standards for cell-phones (mobiles) as for fatty food or sugary soda, requiring all retailers to display the amount of radiation each phone emits. The law came despite a lack of conclusive evidence showing that the devices are dangerous, and amid opposition from the wireless telephone industry, which views the labeling ordinance as a potential business-killer precedent. Under the law, retailers will be required to post materials next to phones, listing the specific absorption rate, which is the amount of radio waves absorbed into the cell-phone user’s body tissue. The so-called SAR rates can vary from phone to phone, but all phones in the US must have a SAR rate no greater than1.6 watts per kg. – according to the Federal Communications Commission.
A major study of cell-phone use in 13 countries published online in May 2010 found no increased risk for the two most common type of brain tumors. In the most extreme cell-phone users, there was a small increase in a type of cancer that attacks the cells that surround nerve cells, though researchers found that finding inconclusive. In San Francisco, officials cautioned that the new law
Incidentally, according to the accounts of survivors of the Mangalore air crash in May, the passengers en mass switched on and used their mobiles as the plane was approaching the runway for landing. The jury is still out if that had anything to do with the aircraft’s communication distortion and crash. If the answer is yes, it would be the first case of mass murder by mobiles – against the slow and silent murder discussed above.
That brings us to the lawyer who collapsed in court while arguing a case and died on the spot. His epitaph read: “Her lies one who lied in court”. What would be the epitaph for the one dies from excessive use of mobiles? Perhaps: “Here lies one who hugged the mobiles to death”!
John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his website (Interactive Cerebral Challenger).

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By John B. Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • Rudolf, Bantwal/Mumbai

    Mon, Jun 28 2010

    Many research studies throughout the world have got strong evidence of mobile towers/booster towers for being responsible for loss of birds and bees.

    This is a clear indication that human beings too are seriously affected by the radiation with depression, uneasiness, and even lethal cancer.

    The mobile telephony cartel is so strong like the drug company cartel that they are able to circumvent any such almost conclusive and scathing study against the rampant mushrooming of these towers and related dangers.

    Wise people who are aware of the mobile radiation have been strongly opposing (for years right from the time these towers got started installed) and not giving permission to these companies to erect their mobile towers on top of their buildings or inside their properties for a small short term income. In fact many doctors have stopped use of mobile phones too due to the risk of developing brain or ear tumors.


    God save the mobile worshipers...

  • Jimmy Noronha, Belloor/Lucknow

    Sun, Jun 27 2010

    The article is well researched and very enlightening one. It is only after reading the article that it occurred to me why those sparrows that had made my courtyard their home ever since I built this house over twenty years ago have deserted me. The adjacent mobile tower apart, a couple of mobiles at home have driven those sparrows which so sweetly used to give me a wake- up call at 4 a.m. for my morning walk . Now the irony is that in place of those sparrows I have been depending on my mobile to give me the wake -up call to rise in the morning to set out for the walk out in the morning. No wonder man has become slave to the modern gadgets and the crux is how to get over this quagmire.

  • Clara Lewis, Kemmannu/Tallur/Dubai

    Sat, Jun 26 2010

    At present in Dubai, near our residential building on the tree one can see thousands of sparrows and their chirping sound early in the morning and late in the evening, reminding me my childhood. But now I go back on vacation to my place the case is different, no more sparrows no chirping sound, nor can see their hanging nests on the trees, and house corners, when I enquire about it some of the local people said that because of the chemicals used in the peddy fields and to breed prowns is the reason for their destruction.

  • mary, mangalore/mulki

    Fri, Jun 25 2010

    geoffrey, hathill Here the writer wants to tell the excess or misuse of mobile phones. and its effects. specially apply to our good place mangalore. the experiment which i wrote not to discurrage you. english teacher ?why u want.? how u send SMS!! All want to save money. even i ! internet too. i read my favourite site Daiji world. and some mails and pay for time. thats my daily rutine. Encurrage good writers like John B. Monteiro. why you dont like / try to understand writers or commenters wants to tell. First of all the whole article is very good. I think... many of our farmers do not know about effects of mobile phone. See..what the writer says is use more land lines phones instead of mobile phones. NOW YOU GOT IT.? clear now ? MOBILE phone is business? Do u know mobile phone manufactures make highly powerful( EMF) to sell their mobile set. ( above normal)It is good and follow what the scientist says. How can we protect the nature, if people do not listen. when u support /follow GLOBAL WARMING instructions to protect our beautiful nature ?

  • geoffrey, hathill

    Thu, Jun 24 2010

    Mary, you call 'making' glass at home a small experiment? secondly, what's 'mesh room'? Before I take the results(if I comprehend the experiment in the first place) of the so called experiment to my teacher, I'm very keen to know who your English teacher is/was. Finally, I feel I'm too small a creature to define my Creator's duties.

  • adshenoy, mangloor

    Thu, Jun 24 2010

    Every modern gadget has its own harmful effects, microwaves included. What humans fail to understand is, we are doing harm to ourselves and nature by using and misusing these wonder slow killer toys. Education in one way has benifitted society at the same time created massive harm to our existence by mere greed of Corporations who produce these goods.
    We have become slaves of technology for whatever reasons. Only humans can put a limit on these. Otherwise we are not sure where we are heading. Time to wake up and start thinking wheter all is worth it.

  • amrit, KSA

    Thu, Jun 24 2010

    we have plently of birds in jeddah and plenty of mobile towers too :)

  • mark/suratkal, suratkal/muscat

    Thu, Jun 24 2010

    geoffrey, hathill you misunderstood. Writer does not say mobile phone is harmfull. he too says necessity. But he say there should be limit and proper use. Example some people have many mobile. Is it necessary? There is no harm in using land line, because its technology is different from mobile phone. Writer says there should limit using mobile phone. because most of our people dependent on agriculture. he says let us use more land line sets insted of mobile. Let us follow good and keep our nature beautiful. safe, for future generation.

  • mary, mangalore / mulki

    Thu, Jun 24 2010

    geoffrey, hathill Do one small,experiment at your home make one glass or mesh room, plant any plant swith on fan. Same you do it outside. and u report it to your teacher. All ( everything is connected each other) We must be thankful to god for creation of bees and other insects. We (must) are protector of all and not destroyers. So Please take care of beautiful Nature GOD created for HUMAN creature. Second part is coming is Global warming!!!! It is our duty to protect the earth god has povided for us. and it is not the duty of God to protect. we are doing wronG .. how can he funish ? HE IS MERCIFUL YAAAA

  • geoffrey, hathill

    Wed, Jun 23 2010

    Good or bad cell phones are here to stay, just like microwave ovens, Pepsi and Coca Cola. Wonder from where the author got info that bees are responsible for 80% pollination. My boatny teacher told me that wind took the lion's share in pollination. Just log on to and you'll realize that bees' responsibility is limited to 15 to 3o%,

  • Philip, Kinnigloy/Dubai

    Wed, Jun 23 2010

    This is just a study. Not too take seriously until proved for certain. There could be other reasons for reduction in numbers of bees or birds, for example, migration.

  • mark, suratkal/ muscat

    Wed, Jun 23 2010

    John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, good article! I would like to add little here sothat people understand easily. The mechanism is like this. The honey bee go away from its hives ( jenugoodu) in search of nector miles away. They return back by sending signals to the hive ( jenugoodu) or recieve signals backfrom hive. In other words like our mobile phone. ( same mechanism) Honey bee is like mobile phone set and ( jenugoodu) hive is rador. when we use our mobile phone our signals cuts the signals of honey bee if the bee is come accross our strong signals ( our signals _ mobile tower) we can say cross signals. Now the honey bee can not find its home( hive-jenugoodu) it go some where and die straight way. 2. present day we use computer when we keep the mobile near computer we see the monitor picture shakes. some way even our brain memory stops frctions of second which we can not feel. Here we must understand the effect of mobile phone if a pregnant woman keep mobile set near embryo/foetus ( growing brain) how will be the child ? or its effect ? who is responsible ? And heart patients. maney people keep mobile in pant pocket - sometimes they say leg pain / or after middle age walking problems.
    Road Accidents. No daily rutiens. no check list. mobile is master and we are slaves of mobile ( it comands - we listen ) we do not know feture generation ! FOOD , FLOWER, YIELD CROPS BECOME LESS ( no polination _ no bees ...

  • Ronald, Mangalore

    Wed, Jun 23 2010

    Good and informative article. About the plane crash i would not blame mobile phone rather i would blame those who did not abide by the rules.

  • Antony Herbert Crasta, Mangalore, Sydney/Australia

    Wed, Jun 23 2010

    Interesting point you are making Mr. Monteiro about the tendency of passengers switching on to their mobiles even before the plane fully landing that could sometime interfere with the aircraft`s communication system! I have observed myself on several occasions when flying especially from Sydney to Mumbai and from Mumbai to Mangalore, and even just last month when I was returning from New Zealand - people just don`t have patience till the plane comes to a full halt! By the way, very educational and enlightening article which I enjoyed reading.

  • Anil Dsouza, Halealve/Cardiff

    Wed, Jun 23 2010

    I remember the days where there were sparrows around my house and their nests inside,under the curatin.But its sad that it is no more the case.

    Is it a repurcussion of technological advance.? We can do two things , either get back to the old way of communicating or find a new way to reduce these signal effects .

  • V.Baretto, Bantwal-Bangalore

    Wed, Jun 23 2010

    very useful article Mr.Monteiro, by which you have spread your knowledge to others by this media

  • Amanda, Mumbai

    Wed, Jun 23 2010

    How come this radiation does not effect the pesky mosquitoes, cockroaches etc. These pests just keep multiplying.

  • Vijay, Bolali

    Wed, Jun 23 2010

    three time cancer risk due to mobile phone radiation living close to transmitter antennas.... mainly due to additional emissions coming from the secondary lobes of the transmitter.. people who are living near mobile tower 400-500 metres should get their houses tested for radiation... to stop cell phone towers from being placed within residential zones due to health studies have shown absolute and conclusive evidence that radio frequency [RF] emissions are harmful at levels on health risk..

    RF [Radio frequency] exposure on the ground is much less than exposure very close to the antenna and in the path of the transmitted radio signal. In fact, ground-level exposure from such antennas is typically thousands of times less than the exposure levels recommended as safe. So exposure to nearby residents would be well within safety margins.

    Big Tobacco raved about the safety of cigarette smoking for years all the while knowing the underlying risks associated with their product. It came down to one thing.. money. living near TV and FM broadcast towers (similar to cell towers) had more than twice the rate of leukemia,miscarriage, cardiac disruption, sleep disturbance,mood swings, indigestion, ulcers and joint pain...dairy cows that were kept in close proximity to a TV and cell phone tower had a reduction in milk production..

    residental socity people are giving allocation to install..for few sum of money. It's natural as we develop we are more of towards destruction..Jai Ho

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