Translated with

From Sarah Martinenghi

Gets cancer from using a mobile phone: Inail ordered to pay an annuity to the worker For 13 years, he used the telephone for an average of two and a half hours a day for work purposes. When the former technician discovered he was suffering from a benign tumour in his ear, he asked INAIL to grant him an occupational disease pension. The Court of Appeal of Turin agreed with him

He used his mobile phone at least two and a half hours, every day, for 13 years. And now Inail has also been condemned on appeal to award him an occupational disability pension for falling ill with acoustic neurinoma, a benign tumour affecting a nerve in the ear.

The ruling, pronounced on 2 November, concerns the case of a former specialised technician at Acciai Speciali Cogne, a 63-year-old man living in Aosta who turned to the Turin law firm Ambrosio e Commodo after Inail had rejected his claim for compensation. Lawyers Stefano Bertone, Chiara Gribaudo and Jacopo Giunta argued the causal link between prolonged mobile phone use for work-related reasons and the illness found and obtained a double positive verdict, first from the Aosta court and now from the Court of Appeal. This is the second case in the world that has ended in favour of a worker affected by the same illness: a few years ago, again the Court of Appeal of Turin, had agreed with Roberto Romeo, a former employee of Telecom Italia, who was assisted by the same law firm, recognising him compensation for prolonged exposure to the frequencies emitted by the mobile phone.

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The sentence now pronounced ‘is the result of a close scientific confrontation’, the lawyers explained, ‘there have been numerous meetings and exchanges of pleadings between the parties’ experts’. The court’s two consultants had already established that the mobile phone had caused the tumour ‘with a high probability’ and Inail had been condemned to pay an occupational disease annuity of around EUR 350 per month in 2020. However, the social security agency had appealed the decision by requesting a new expert opinion. The Court of Appeal had thus appointed Professor Roberto Albera, professor of otorhinolaryngology at the University of Turin, author of 400 publications who in his long experience has performed over 10,000 operations, including just under 200 for neurinomas. He too confirmed the high probability between radiofrequency exposure and the disease found in the patient.

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The 63-year-old man had always used his mobile phone from his left ear, because the right one had already been injured due to a previous trauma, with a total calculation of between 10 and 13 thousand hours, from 1995 to 2008. Operated for the tumour, he suffered total deafness in that ear and also facial nerve damage resulting in paresis on that side of the face and a state of depression. “During the course of the lawsuit, the topic of conflict of interest and the quality of the studies facing each other on the subject was also addressed,” the lawyers further explained. For the medical consultant, ‘the studies that support the low correlation (between this tumour and mobile phone use, ed.) are based on the Interphone study, which has been criticised because it also considers modest exposure to radiofrequencies from mobile phones and there are doubts about a possible conflict of interest of the authors with the manufacturers’, while ‘in the specific case of acoustic neurinoma, the hypothesis of a possible correlation or at least a concausality is based on studies carried out by evaluating exposure more precisely’.

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The high probability of a correlation between tumour and mobile phone in this case was established on the basis of the absence of other possible causes, and prolonged exposure to radio frequencies thus proved to be the only risk factor for the former steelworks worker.

For lawyers Stefano Bertone and Renato Ambrosio, who are also following five other cases of people who have fallen ill with neurinoma or died of glioblastomas, ‘the greatest danger is for the public, including children: radio frequencies can only be perceived with electrical detectors, unlike the exhaust of a diesel engine, which can be felt by smell, or the sharp blade of a knife by touch. Wi-Fi, ‘soaps’, hotspots all emit and receive radio frequencies’. It is no coincidence that in a risk assessment document of a major telephone company, the company expressly informed its 7,000 employees that mobile phones should not be ‘in contact with the face’, indicating the use of ‘corded’ headsets, and no cordless telephones or similar are available for them.’