|60 people battle giants|
Rooftop radiation binds the Mobile Tower Grievance Forum
Banker, housewife, engineer, pujari. They came from all walks of life, from across Maharashtra, and met up for the first time in a public meeting at Mumbai's Shivaji Park. They exchanged notes, bonded, and vowed to work together. Each of the 60 people gathered under the Mobile Tower Grievance Forum had their own story to tell. They told stories of their battle against illegal installation of mobile towers, of money power, and of cancer, brain tumour, skin rashes and insomnia caused by the towers erected atop apartment buildings. The narrations cemented the group and the meeting culminated in an action plan that included selecting a 10-doctor team to document the impact of radiation from towers on people's health. When the meeting started at 10.30 am on December 13 last year, the dilemma was palpable. Stray comments could be heard saying towers are needed to transmit the signals from cell phones.
But as the discussion progressed, the ambiguities evaporated because many speakers said the law was clear: before installing mobile towers near residential areas, companies have to get a no-objection certificate from the residents' cooperative society and permission from the municipal corporation and the pollution control board. There should be a gap of 36 metres from human habitation, the law stipulated.
On June 6, last year, by way of the majority, the society cleared the proposal to install a tower. Construction material was offloaded at the site on June 19. "But we were adamant," Londhe said. "My son and I filed complaints with the municipal corporation. We also filed right to information (rti) applications to know how the authorities sanctioned the tower. I also filed police complaints." Construction has been stalled for now. "But it has not been cancelled yet," he added. "Sometimes my son has to leave work at office and rush home to ensure the construction work does not begin illegally." All this has paid off to the extent that in December, the company took back the construction material.
Listening to Londhe speak Vijaya Bhat, who came to the meeting with her husband Rajesh Bhat, commented she did not even get a chance to oppose the mobile tower in her building. When the residents moved in, they found the builder had already installed a mobile tower. The Bhats came from six-storey Riddhi Park building in Thakurli West, 50 km from Mumbai, to tell the story of Vijaya's brain tumour which they suspect is linked to radiation from the tower. Rajesh is a Hindu priest and his wife Vijaya a homemaker. "Within four months of occupying the top floor flat, I began to fall sick.
U.S. Widens Toyota Probe to Electronics
By SHARON TERLEP And JOSH MITCHELL
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday his agency is widening its probe of sudden acceleration complaints in Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles to look at the possibility of electromagnetic interference with electronic throttle systems, and said he wants to talk directly with company Chief Executive Akio Toyoda.
Mr. LaHood briefly caused a flurry in financial markets and at Toyota dealerships when he said during a congressional hearing that owners of six million Toyota and Lexus vehicles recalled to fix suspected throttle problems should stop driving the cars. Mr. LaHood quickly retracted the remark, calling it a misstatement and said he meant only to encourage Toyota owners to get their cars fixed quickly.
Separately, Japan's transport ministry and U.S. highway safety officials said they are investigating complaints about problems with brakes in Toyota's Prius hybrid model.
The Prius reports, and aggressive criticism of Toyota in Washington on Wednesday, battered Toyota's shares in heavy trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The damage spread to some of Toyota's key suppliers, as investors appeared to worry about longer-term harm to the sales of the auto maker and its tight corporate network.
The Toyota recall has affected more than just the world's biggest car maker and its customers. In Japan, some industry executives worried Wednesday that Toyota's troubles will undermine the image of all Japanese cars overseas.
The car industry could face a broader challenge because of Mr. LaHood's decision to have the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigate claims that electromagnetic interference could cause electronic throttle systems such as those used in many Toyota models to malfunction.
That in turn could raise questions about the industry's wholesale move to computerized systems, done in part to meet fuel-efficiency requirements.
Toyota has blamed sudden acceleration on just two causes: out-of-position floor mats and sticky accelerator pedals.
Electronic throttles replace mechanical links between the gas pedal and the throttle with electronic relays. The systems, used widely in the industry, reduce vehicle weight and fuel waste.
NHTSA said it had begun a "fresh look" at both electronic throttle control systems and the possible effects of electromagnetic interference on them. The agency said it has no reason at this point to believe there are safety defects in the systems or in their ability to function when exposed to electromagnetic interference.
Instead, it is "a background examination of the underlying technological issues," NHTSA said.
As part of the probe, NHTSA will meet with manufacturers and suppliers to gain more understanding of their electronic throttle systems and ways in which these companies address any possible interference effects. NHTSA said it also will meet with independent experts and people who have raised the possibility of EMI effects "in the media" to learn more about the basis of their opinions.
Bob Waltz, Toyota's vice president of product quality and service support, said Monday that Toyota puts its vehicles through "extensive electromagnetic radiation testing" and has never been able to produce a failure related to microwaves or magnetic force.
Henry Kowalski, a professor of mechanical engineering a Kettering University in Flint, Mich., said interference strong enough to disrupt a car's throttle "would have to be a huge electromagnetic field or the design of the electronics would have to be so poor that it would be happening more often."
Questions about electronics could prove costly for the entire industry, said Neil De Koker, CEO of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association, a trade group for auto-parts makers. "You can test thousands of vehicles and not find anything," he said.
In Washington, Toyota's troubles are taking on a political dimension at a time when the Obama administration has involved the government deeply in the car industry as controlling owner of Toyota rivals General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC. The administration is also involved in a trade skirmish with Japan over that country's version of a "cash for clunkers" program that the administration complains is tilted against U.S. vehicles.
In a letter released Wednesday, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, (D.-Mich.), a powerful ally of the Detroit auto makers, wrote "NHTSA's actions related to the Toyota recalls trouble me, especially as reports of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles predate the recalls by at least two years." The House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which Mr. Dingell is the former chairman, is investigating the Toyota recall and has stepped up its demands for information from the company.
Mr. LaHood on Wednesday defended NHTSA's handling of the Toyota issue on his watch. He confirmed Wednesday that Transportation Department officials are considering civil penalties against Toyota for its handling of the sudden-acceleration matter.
For consumers, Wednesday was another day of uncertainty and confusion.
After Mr. LaHood's comment that owners of recalled Toyotas shouldn't drive their cars, some Toyota dealers were deluged with calls and repair demands. Dealers are starting to receive kits the company says will address the problem, allowing them to make the first repairs.
"Our phones are ringing off the hook since those comments—it is causing mass hysteria," said Michele Baum, director of service and parts operations at Ganley Toyota in Akron, Ohio.
Toyota has told dealers they will receive checks to cover the cost of fixing cars and to ensure the dealers provide top customer service, a person familiar with the matter said. The amounts will range from $7,500 to $75,000, depending on how many cars a dealership sold last year, this person said.
Toyota said the acceleration problem "is rare and generally does not occur suddenly. In the rare instances where it does it occur, the vehicle can be controlled with firm and steady application of the brakes."
The controversy has some Japanese executives worried that Toyota's troubles will undermine Japanese business more broadly.
"Because Toyota is a symbolic manufacturer, [the recall] could end up damaging the image" of all Japanese car makers, said Masao Ohmichi, Mitsubishi Motors Corp.s' executive officer, at a press conference on the company's earnings.
Koichi Kondo, Honda Motor Co.'s executive vice president, mirrored his comments, saying: "As Toyota is the front-runner, there would be somewhat of an impact on the [perceived] reliability of Japanese cars."—Melanie Trottman, Joseph B. White and Mariko Sanchanta contributed to this article.
Note - I strongly suspect that wiring is the weak link in vehicles that have problems with electro magnetic radiation interference. Older cars have few problems with electro magnetic fields yet many modern cars have extremely strong and dangerous electro magnetic fields inside the passenger cabin. If the wiring of modern cars allows EMFs to escape so easily into the passenger compartment, there is good reason to believe that radiation can get on to the wiring system in a similar way.
I have found several cars which have made me ill because of the high electro magnetic fields. The EMF levels in most new vehicles are much higher than levels suspected to cause leukaemia and other serious health effects. It is time that all vehicle manufacturers take this problem seriously and make cars that are safe from excessive EMF exposure.