“Cell phones cause tumors,” proclaims a popular conspiracy theory. Paranoid delusion, right? Well, not according to an Italian court, which just ruled that a man should receive $7,500 a year for the rest of his life for developing a non-cancerous tumor as a result of using a company cell phone. The court’s finding is the first of its kind, and might point towards an eventual turn of public opinion against cell phone use.
The man is named Robert Romero. As part of his work responsibilities, he was obligated to use a Telecom Italia cell phone for three hours a day for fifteen years. He developed a tumor in his brain and lost his hearing in one ear.
The court’s verdict in Romero’s favorite is the first time a legal body has validated the claim that cell phones lead to brain tumors. Alarmingly, cell phone use has also been associated with decreases in sperm health.
The decision isn’t a new one – it was issued in March. But it wasn’t made public until Thursday. We can expect to see more details about the “legal reasoning” that built towards the court’s conclusion.
Interestingly, Romero did not sue Telecom Italia, the company that employs him. He sued the state social security agency. Romero cautions people in the general population against using cell phones excessively.
“The norms say intense use is one hour a day,” said Romero in an interview with Sky TG24. “I went well beyond the limits.”
Italy may be leading the global pack in anti-cell-phone litigation. An Italian consumer protection agency is allegedly preparing a class-action lawsuit against cell phone companies, that would mandate they label phones with health warnings in much the same way cigarettes must carry health advisory text. The highest Italian court also granted social security payouts to a sales manager who was required to use a cell phone excessively, back in 2012.
It’s not difficult to imagine that cell phones may have serious, long-term health consequences. They are a very recent invention and their use has not been heavily studied. We may be in a period of collective waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop. Some people are already worried that ubiquitous cell phone signals and wifi fields may pose an ill-understood, totally unregulated threat to public health.
Time and research will tell if cell phones are as dangerous as some worry they are. For now, it might not be a bad idea to limit the amount of time you spend holding your phone to your ear. And considering the relationship between cell phones and sperm health, if you’re a man, you might want to carry your phone in your pocket only when necessary.