A Telecom Italia employee has won compensation for a benign brain tumour he says was caused by using his mobile phone for three hours a day over 15 years.
The ruling, originally reported by Sky TG24 and covered in English by AFP and AP, was issued by a court in the Italian city of Ivrea last month but only recently made public. The plaintiff Roberto Romeo was not suing Telecom Italia, for whom he worked over the time in question, but instead the Italian state in a bid to win compensation.
Romeo had the tumour diagnosed near his right ear in 2010 and a subsequent operation left him with a loss of hearing in that ear and estimated damage to 23% of his bodily function. As a result the judge ruled Romeo should be paid €500 per month by the state.
There have been concerns about the effects of radio waves used by mobile phones affecting the brain for as long as the industry has existed. Because radio is at the opposite end of the electro-magnetic spectrum to ionizing radiation such as gamma rays, it is generally considered to pose no health risks so the precedent set by this ruling could be very significant.
Cancer Research UK 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.” In 2011 the WHO published a study saying there could be some risk but stressing the need for further research. The American Cancer Society has a similar stance.
The scientific basis for the ruling is not yet available, but legal precedents have a way of snowballing. There is already talk of a class action suit in Italy and, given the ubiquity of mobile phones, the legal ramifications are potentially limitless.
With Amazon and Google launching smart home initiatives, have the telcos missed out on their chance to cash in on this market?
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