A 57-year-old Italian telecom worker, Roberto Romero, used his company-issued mobile phone three or four hours a day for 15 years. According to an Italian court, that intense usage is to blame for Romeo developing a non-cancerous tumor and hearing loss in one ear. Romero detailed his ordeal:
“I had no choice but to use my mobile to talk to colleagues and organise work—for 15 years I was calling all the time, from home, in the car.
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.”
Romero admits his usage was extreme. He told Italy’s Sky TG24:
“The norms say intense use is one hour a day. I went well beyond the limits.”
Romero still works for Telecom Italia and did not sue them, instead he sued the Italian Workers’ Compensation Authority for disability payments. Romero was awarded a monthly payment after a medical expert estimated that the tumor and hearing loss amounted to a 23 percent reduction in bodily function.
Central to the case was the court’s decision to not view any studies that had been funded by the telecom industry. The ruling is thought to be the first time that a trial court linked cellphone use to brain tumors. In 2012, Italy’s supreme court accepted the link between brain tumors and cell phone usage, which cleared the way for Thursday’s trial court ruling.
The American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) say that there is no conclusive evidence that cell phones pose an increased health risk, but acknowledge the need for more research. The NCI says:
“Studies thus far have not shown a consistent link between cell phone use and cancers of the brain, nerves, or other tissues of the head or neck. More research is needed because cell phone technology and how people use cell phones have been changing rapidly.”
However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found limited evidence in studies that cell phones are “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
Additionally, the CDC points out that studies do suggest a possible link between non-cancerous tumors, like an acoustic neuroma, and radiofrequency (RF) radiation from cellphone use.
It is theorized that using speaker-phone features and wired hands-free devices could reduce exposure to RF radiation, though extensive research has not been completed on the subject.
In the wake of the ruling, the Italian consumer protection agency, Codacons, is planning a class-action lawsuit to force mobile phones to come with health warnings, similar to those found on cigarettes.