Mobile phones can cause tumours, Italian court rules

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Mobile phones can cause tumours, Italian court rules
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In a potentially landmark case, an Italian court has ruled that excessive, work-related use of a mobile phone caused an executive to develop a benign brain tumour.


In a ruling handed down on April 11th but only made public on Thursday, the court in the northern town of Ivrea awarded the plaintiff a state-funded pension.

The ruling is subject to a possible appeal.

Roberto Romeo, 57, had testified that his work duties obliged him to use his mobile for three to four hours of each working day for 15 years.

"For the first time in the world, a court has recognized a causal link between inappropriate use of a mobile phone and a brain tumour," his lawyers, Stefano Bertone and Renato Ambrosio said in a statement.

Romeo said he did not want to demonize mobiles, "but I believe we have to be more aware about how to use them".

"I had no choice but to use my mobile to talk to colleagues and organize work - for 15 years I was calling all the time, from home, in the car," he explained

"I started to have the feeling of my right ear being blocked all the time and the tumour was diagnosed in 2010. Happily, it was benign but I can no longer hear anything because they had to remove my acoustic nerve."

A medical expert estimated the damage to Romeo at 23 percent of his bodily function, prompting the judge to make a compensation award of 500 euros per month to be paid by INAIL, a national insurance scheme covering workplace accidents.

Scientific studies of the potential health risks of mobile phones have mostly concluded that they pose no serious risk to human health at the level of most people's use.

Heavier use may pose some risk, other studies have found, and many experts say it is too early to do a proper assessment of what is a relatively new technology.

Last year, Italy's under-secretary pledged to overturn a 2007 ban on smartphone use in schools. The ministry's decision to reintroduce the devices came as part of a €1 billion government push to digitalize Italian classrooms.

In some areas however, concerns have been raised over possible health problems linked to Wi-Fi.

The mayor of the northern city of Turin last year outlined plans to cut back on Wi-Fi in schools and public offices over fears that radiation may be damaging to health.

But after criticism from then-prime minister Matteo Renzi, mayor Chiara Appendino clarified that the council's plans didn't say Wi-Fi emissions were "harmful". 

One Piedmont mayor went even further when he banned Wi-Fi in his town's schools in 2015.

Livio Tola, the Five Star Movement mayor of a town near Turin, controversially told the town's high school and elementary school to replace their wireless connections with old fashioned plug-in cables.

The decision came after Tola read a report which said electromagnetic radiation produced by modems was especially harmful to children and adolescents.

There is currently no scientific evidence confirming that the radiation produced by routers is actually harmful to humans. However, The World Health Organization has recognized the "anxiety and speculation" surrounding electromagnetic field exposure.

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Photo: Scott Beale/Flickr


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