Mobiles firms face first cancer cases

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The Independent Online
LAWYERS ARE preparing to bring Britain's first cancer and brain tumour cases against mobile phone companies.

A firm of solicitors with offices in London and Sheffield has opened files on behalf of three people who claim that their illnesses relate to their exposure to microwaves from mobile phones.

Simon Allen, head of Russell Jones & Walker's occupational diseases group, said the three cases, one from Sheffield and the others from London, ranged from serious illnesses to complaints of headaches and burning sensations on the face.

It is also understood that Leigh Day & Co, the firm that brought the first tobacco cases in this country, has been contacted by 20 people who believe their illnesses are the direct result of mobile phones.

To find the scientific evidence to issue proceedings against the mobile phone companies, Russell Jones & Walker has employed a medical research assistant and has developed close links with a Sheffield hospital and the local health and safety executive. Two lawyers from the firm are in San Francisco liaising with American law firms that have already brought eight cases against mobile phone companies in the American courts. The English lawyers have also made contact with Swedish doctors who are at the forefront of scientific research into the relationship between brain tumours, cancers and the use of mobile phones.

Mr Allen said: "What we are looking for is a `smoking gun' document which shows that there's a potential link between microwaves and changes in the body." He pinned some hope on research soon to be published by Warwick University which would show that mobile phone guards, intended to protect mobile phone users from the microwaves, were ineffective. Mr Allen said: "Some of the victims have serious symptoms where their faces actually warm up after they have had the phone next to their ears." Others had complained of short-term memory loss.

Delia Mills, whose husband, Lawrence, died last June from lympathic cancer, is planning to contact Russell Jones & Walker to prepare a case. Mr Mills, from Chertsey, Surrey, worked as a BT engineer for eight years, and for the last year worked for several hours a day using a mobile phone. He often had to wait long periods to be connected with the office and kept the phone crooked against his neck while he attended to something else, Ms Mills said. In 1997, he developed a lump on his neck that swelled to the size of a grapefruit.

Mrs Mills said: "It's no coincidence that he developed the illness so quickly after coming into contact with microwaves from the phones."

A number of other law firms are also preparing the ground for litigation in other cases. Thompsons, the trade union lawyers, has already taken advice from a leading barrister. Although this ruled out a cause of action in one case, the firm said it was still pursuing others.

One of the obstacles faced by the lawyers is that most of the studies have been carried out on mice and rats. Nevertheless, the evidence is persuasive. A study carried out by an Australian university showed that even short exposures to these microwaves doubled the chances of brain tumours and cancers.