Vatican Radio is told to pay out over cancer risk scare

Italy's supreme Court has ordered Vatican Radio to compensate a small town near Rome following claims that children there were at a higher risk of cancer because of the broadcaster's high-powered transmitters.

Reports emerged in 2001 that electro-magnetic radiation produced by Vatican Radio's transmitters near Cesano was above the legal limit. The station cut the strength of its signals, but the case went to court when a health authority released a study claiming that children in the area were six times more likely to develop leukaemia than youngsters elsewhere.

Rome's Court of Appeal will now decide how much Vatican Radio will have to pay in damages.

Codacons, the national consumer association which backed residents' claims, hailed the court's decision. "Finally justice is done and the people of Cesano will be able to have the compensation they deserve," said the president of Codacons, Carlo Rienzi.

Vatican Radio said it was disappointed by the ruling. "This sentence comes at the end of a long, stormy trial process which has seen the pontifical broadcaster subject to unjust accusations," a spokesman told Ansa news agency. "There is no justified reason for concern for any part of the population."

The Vatican also noted that medical research had never managed to establish a firm link between electromagnetic waves from radio masts and malignancies.

Some experts believe high-powered radio transmitters might raise the risk of cancer in children. However, unlike ionising radiation, such as X-rays, it is not clear how radio waves might damage cells in a way that causes the disease.

Vatican Radio, which was set up in 1931, broadcasts to 61 countries in 47 languages.

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