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Italian Supreme Court Rules Cell Phones Can Cause Cancer

This significant ruling may change everything you thought you knew about the safety of wireless.

History in the Making ...

Contrary to the denials of many heath agencies in the U.S. and in some other countries, the Italian Supreme Court has recognized a “causal” link between heavy mobile phone use and brain tumor risk in a worker’s compensation case.  

The Italian courts dismissed research co-financed by the mobile phone industry including the "Interphone" study due to concerns about conflict of interest. Instead, the courts relied on independent research conducted by Lennart Hardell and his colleagues in Sweden which showed consistent evidence of increased brain tumor risk associated with long term mobile phone use.  

In Italy, a business executive used a cell phone for business, holding it on the same side of his head for 5-7 hours per day, for many years. He learned he had developed a brain tumor behind the ear on the same side of his head as where he held his phone every day. He immediately connected the tumor to his phone use and filed a claim for worker's compensation. It was denied. He sued and won.

His employer appealed the case to the Supreme Court in Italy. And now, that court has upheld the decision, making this case a monumental one in the battle against the telecom industry and those who believe that wireless products create a cancer risk that is being hidden from consumers.  

What are the implications of this ruling for the United States?

The ruling in Italy brings serious consequences for the United States as many cases have been tied up in the courts for years or have been settled out of court because most victims or their families were unable to prove without a doubt that the victim's cancer was caused by radiation from his/her phone or environment. Now, they have another high court's decision on which to justify their own cases and there may be a greater push for a court to rule rather than accepting a settlement offer.  

On May 31, 2011, just after the DeKalb County School Board had announced their intentions to put cell phone towers at 12 school campuses, but before they actually took a vote, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified radio frequency energy, including cell phone radiation, as “possibly carcinogenic” in humans. The 31 researchers convened by the WHO, considered to be among the very best in the world, relied heavily upon the Hardell research as well. It is quality research without the bias of the industry affecting its results.  

Why haven't we heard more about this research? If you have ever tried to get a straight answer from someone in the decision-making process of siting for cell towers, you likely know that they have a lot of answers about why they do not have answers. They usually say that "more research is needed." That's because the telecom industry has funded hundreds of studies with conflicting results, intended to confuse us laypeople. The longer they can hold off on telling us the truth, the more money they can rake in.  

But, there has been a definite divide between the results of industry-funded research and independent research. That was something the court in Italy brought to light. Research co-financed by the telecom industry over the past decade has been unlikely to report evidence of tumor risk. But, the industry-funded research has reportedly used substandard methodology compared independently-funded research. Moreover, in more recently published research, authors of studies co-financed by the industry have actually dismissed the findings of their own studies that point to an increased brain tumor risk found in children as well as adults.  

Why Can't We Find a Way to Know the Truth? We can find a way to learn the truth, but we must be willing to pressure our government officials to move in the right direction. They are already receiving substantial campaign contributions from the telecom industry that's telling them there is nothing to worry about. 

Governments need to find a way to fund cell phone radiation research that is truly independent of the telecom industry to avoid any conflict of interest in the way the results are interpreted. One simple way to do this is to add an annual user fee of only 50 centers on each cell phone bill in the U.S. We now have more than 330 million cell phone subscribers. This fee would generate sufficient resources to fund high quality, independent research 

Then, the government and the industry could work together to promote safer technology development and fund community education programs about safer cell phone use and safe siting of cell phone towers away from places where people are likely to spend a large portion of their day, every day.  

Although 12 nations and the European Union have issued precautionary health warnings regarding mobile phone use, the U.S. has been in denial.  The telecom industry has blocked numerous attempts to pass cell phone warning legislation at the Federal, state, and city level. The industry even refused to support a bill in the California legislature by Senator Mark Leno that would simply remind consumers to read the safety information that is currently printed in their cell phone user manuals.

Only one city has been able to overcome intense lobbying by the Telecom industry. San Francisco adopted cell phone “right to know” legislation two years ago, but the Telecom industry (i.e., CTIA-The Wireless Association) blocked implementation of this law by filing a lawsuit claiming that the court-approved fact sheet violates the industry’s First Amendment rights. The CTIA also moved its annual conference from San Francisco to punish the city.

The Victims Will Have Their Day in Court

The evidence of harm from cell phone radiation has been increasing so it is only a matter of time before lawsuits filed in U.S. courts by cell phone radiation victims will be successful. The insurance industry will not provide product liability insurance due to concerns that juries will find that the telecom industry has behaved much like the tobacco and asbestos industries. So, the telecom industry could be faced with paying huge damages to individuals and governments.

What the Telecom Industry Could Do

The telecom industry could become good corporate citizens, reduce potential product liability and protect consumers’ health by:

  • allowing the FCC to adopt stronger regulations
  • promoting precautionary safety warnings 
  • encouraging government to support independent research to promote safer wireless technologies.

Otherwise taxpayers may be forced to bail out yet another industry too big to fail.

In the meantime, since most research points to the fact that children are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of wireless radiation, we as consumers and as advocates for the rights of our own children, must be aware of how much exposure our children have to wireless devices and help them make choices to "plug in" whenever possible.  

If you are concerned about the installation of wi-fi in your child's school, click here for a wi-fi non-consent form you can send in your child's folder to school. It will at least open the door for a conversation with your school's administrative staff about exactly how the wi-fi will be installed, used and exactly how much do they know about the potential dangers to children.  

For more on this subject as well as the wi-fi plans for DeKalb County School, please visit our website

Other blogs by Cheryl Miller

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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