For decades rumors have swirled inconclusively about an alleged causal link between cellphone use and brain tumors. Now, in a decision that has hitherto received little publicity in the United States, an Italian court may have opened the floodgates to a torrent of lawsuits against cellphone makers and service suppliers. The decision was handed down last week in Rome in a case brought by an Italian businessman Innocente Marcolini. He had used his cellphone up to six hours a day for twelve years and developed a brain tumor. The court backed his allegation of a causal link.
The first English-language account of the decision seems to have been published by The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s London tabloid, but the most informative, nuanced report I have been able to find is a follow-up published by Newsmax, Richard Mellon Scaife’s conservative website. Newsmax writer Nick Tate quotes Herman Kattlove, a Los Angeles-based oncologist and former spokesperson for the American Cancer Society, suggesting that children may develop brain tumors many years down the road because of cellphone use.
Tate comments that in the absence of definitive evidence clearing cellphones of suspicion, they should be used sparingly, particularly by children. He offers these further tips:
* Use a wired earpiece with an external microphone, or a wireless headset, such as a small Bluetooth device.
* Use the speakerphone function to keep the phone away from your head.
* Instruct children to text rather than talk on the phone unless it is an emergency.
* When driving, use an installed wireless device with an antenna located outside the vehicle.
* If the signal is weak, hang up and try again: Radiation is highest when the phone is seeking a connection and the signal is weak.
How much will the Italian decision cost the U.S. cellphone industry? And will service providers like A T & T, Verizon, and Sprint take the brunt or will manufacturers like Nokiaand Motorola also find themselves in the firing line. If Angelo Gino Levis, a doctor who testified in the Italian case, is to be believed, the decision will prove a goldmine for class action lawyers. He was quoted in The Sunsaying that the decision will “open not a road but a motorway [expressway] to legal actions by victims.”
For the industry, there is, however, a finite upper limit on their liabilities in that brain tumors are still relatively rare. According to the Cleveland Clinic, fewer than 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with primary brain tumors each year.