Unprecedented legal ruling links tumour to mobile phone usage

Roberto Romeo left unable to hear from his left ear

The case follows decades of speculation around suggested links between cancer and the intense usage of mobile phones
The case follows decades of speculation around suggested links between cancer and the intense usage of mobile phones

An Italian court has ruled a worker who developed a tumour after more than 15 years of intense phone usage will receive compensation in what is thought to be a world first.

Italy's national insurance provider has been ordered to compensate the man with a lifelong payment usually only given to people who suffer serious harm in the workplace.

The 57-year-old employee of national network Telecom began using the phone for work in 1995, co-ordinating other company technicians.

After having used the phone “for four hours a day without any protection” for 15 years, Mr Romeo was no longer able to hear from his left ear.

The victim's lawyer described the ruling as "historic", telling Italian media: "It's the first time in the world that a tribunal has declared a causation between a tumour and the use of a phone."

Mr Romeo said doctors had first told him it was a blockage, but a brain scan later showed it was a benign nerve sheath tumour.

"It was quite big and it occupied a big part of the brain, so I had an operation," he told local media.

However, the operation was just the start of the struggle for the Italian, who had his auditory vestibular nerve removed during the operation, contracted meningitis and has since lost hearing in his right ear.

“I don’t want to demonise the use of mobile phones, but I believe it is necessary to use them properly and knowingly,” said Mr Romeo.

On 11 April the court of Ivrea in Piedmont, Northern Italy, recognised the damage to the employee, and ordered the national insurance provider compensate Mr Romeo with the lifelong payment.

The case follows decades of speculation around suggested links between cancer and the intense usage of mobile phones, with a number of other trials also currently underway in Italy.

A US government-funded study concluded last year: “Given the widespread global usage of mobile communications among users of all ages, even a very small increase in the incidence of disease resulting from exposure to [radio-frequency radiation] could have broad implications for public health.”

Other studies which suggested the correlation in the past have been criticised for methodology or lack of samples, witnessing the divisions in the scientific community.

The Cancer UK website says: "So far, the scientific evidence shows it is unlikely that mobile phones could increase the risk of brain tumours, or any other type of cancer. But we do not know enough to completely rule out a risk."

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