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Anna Mallia | Wednesday, 06 January 2010

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Harm from mobile phones

For the first time the Court of Appeal of Brescia in Italy has recognised that excessive use of mobile phone can cause cancer.
In a revolutionary judgement, the Court of Appeal of Brescia has recognised that physical harm is cause by the electromagnetic waves and the mobile phone.

The cases concerned Innocente Marcolini, who was head finance of a very important company in Brescia and who in 2002 started getting excruciating pains in the part of his face where he uses the mobile phone. In effect Marcolini used the mobile phone for five hours a day negotiating and concluding contracts with the company’s clients. After being operated for the tumor, his face is now semi-paralysed, he has lost his sense of touch and half his tongue and has great problems with his left eye, as well as difficulties in chewing and in speaking. He now suffers from 80% disability, and has to undergo extensive therapy and physiotherapy.

In his case, the Court of Appeal recognised that the cause of his condition was s the excessive use of mobile phones, and concluded that his use for business purposes constitutes injury on duty.

Of course it was not easy for Marcolini to convince the industrial tribunal that the cause of his disability was the use of the mobile phone and he was lucky to find the support of a neurosurgeon from Brescia, Dr Giuseppe Grasso, and two neurologists, Angelo Gino Levis and Paolo Liberini. In effect, Marcolini lost his case before the industrial tribunal, but then won it on appeal. In this landmark judgement – not only for Italy but also for us and for many EU member states – the Court has for the first time recognised that there are electromagnetic waves caused by the use of mobile phones do cause harm.

Although many countries like Malta are awaiting instructions from the World Health Organisation, there are other countries which argue that it is better safe than sorry, and which have legislated a lower rate of emission from these electromagnetic waves than that of 45 established by the WHO.

The final results of an international study by WHO, intended to produce definitive evidence on whether cell phones cause cancer, could be released any day now. Nine years ago the World Health Organisation launched ‘interphone’ to determine whether brain tumors can be linked to electromagnetic radiation from cell phone. The researchers analysed cell phone use by 14,000 people in 13 countries. Half of the participants had brain tumors; half did not. Fieldwork for the study ended in 2006 but a final paper has yet to be published.

It is true that there is conflicting evidence on the subject, but prevention is better than cure, and it is wrong for Malta to continue to lay back awaiting the concluding evidence from the WHO. There are non-governmental organisations and associations who teach us how to use the mobile phone correctly. They give the following clear instructions:
> Mobile phones must not be used with the blue-tooth on, and with speaker on, because the intensity of the electromagnetic waves diminishes rapidly with the distance;
> Avoid long telephone conversations; use your mobile phone when there is a good reception because a low reception means more emissions;
> Do not leave the mobile phone on your bedside table at night (or worse, under the pillow) and do not charge the mobile phone near the bed;
> Dring the day, do not leave it on in your pocket or in contact with your body but always leave it on the table or in your handbag;
> Do not leave it on in hospitals or in the presence of medical equipment;
> The use of mobile phones by children must be very limited, and in England the Ministry of Health discourages the use of mobile phone by children under 14 years of age;
> When buying a mobile phone ask about its level of emissions;
> In closed areas the level of emissions increases and avoid the use of mobile phones and use the fixed line (and not cordless).

Other NGO’s such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG), lists on its website the list of the best phones (low emissions) and worst phones (high emissions) so that the consumer is informed before making his choice. In Malta we calculated the best and the worst by the shape and the functions and we ignore completely the level of emissions.
EWG published a 2009 ranking of all digital cell phones by their SAR levels and for a complete list go to but it is interesting to note that Samsung Impression SGH-a877 is the first for low-radiation model and Motorola Moto vu 204 is the first for high radiation model.
It also gives the following tips for a safer phone:

Look up your phone on EWG’s buyer’s guide: (Your phone’s model number may be printed under your battery.) Consider replacing your phone with one that emits the lowest radiation possible and still meets your needs.

Headsets emit much less radiation than phones. Choose either wired or wireless (experts are split on which version is safer): Some wireless headsets emit continuous, low-level radiation, so take yours off your ear when you’re not on a call. Using your phone in speaker mode also reduces radiation to the head.

Your phone emits radiation when you talk or text, but not when you’re receiving messages. Listening more and talking less reduces your exposures.

Hold the phone away from your torso when you’re talking (with headset or speaker), not against your ear, in a pocket, or on your belt where soft body tissues absorb radiation.

Phones use less power (less radiation) to send text than voice. And unlike when you speak with the phone at your ear, texting keeps radiation away from your head.

Fewer signal bars on your phone means that it emits more radiation to get the signal to the tower. Make and take calls when your phone has a strong signal.

Young children’s brains absorb twice the cell phone radiation as an adult’s. EWG joins health agencies in at least 6 countries in recommending limits for children’s phone use, such as for emergency situations only.

Radiation shields such as antenna caps or keypad covers reduce the connection quality and force the phone to transmit at a higher power with higher radiation.

In a report published on the last Sunday’s San Diego Union Tribune, Scott Lafee argues that much of the current research is funded by the wireless communications industry, and quotes a paper published in the March 2009 issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, by Michael Kundi, director of the Institute of environmental Health at the Medical University of Vienna in which Kundi concluded that while the studies generally indicate an increased cancer risk, the research was flawed by various biases and lack of long-term data.
In other words, he said nobody knows anything for sure.
But in the case of Innocente Marcolini, the Court of Appeal of Brescia is sure that his semi-paralyzed face was caused by the use of his mobile phone.



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