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$800 Million Lawsuit Filed Against Motorola and Major Cell Phone Carriers

Paraphrased by Steve Waldrop
September 12, 2002

Baltimore - In what could bolster an $800 million lawsuit against Motorola and major cell phone carriers, a new study found a possible link between older cell phones and brain tumors.

Although many studies have found no cancer risk from cell phone use, the research published in the latest European Journal of Cancer Prevention said long-term users of analog phones are at least 30 percent more likely than nonusers to develop brain tumors.

Newer digital phones emit less radiation than older analog models of the sort studied.

The lawsuit against cell phone manufacturer Motorola was brought by Christopher Newman, a Maryland neurologist who is convinced that a nine-year cell phone habit led to his brain cancer. His suit comes five years after the dismissal, for lack of evidence, of a lawsuit filed in Florida by David Reynard, who alleged that a cell phone was responsible for his wife's fatal brain cancer.

In Newman's case, his lawyer has said, "it's really not a question at all" whether the cancer is cell phone-related. The evidence, she says: Newman's own doctors made the connection between his long-time cell phone use and his tumor, which is positioned in "the exact anatomical location where the radiation from the cell phone emitted into his skull." Newman has been front and center in a renewed public focus over the last few months on whether the fear of brain cancer from wireless phones is well-founded or not.

A federal judge is expected to decide by month's end whether case should go to trial and if so, whether the study can be used as evidence.

If the case goes forward, it could open the door to other major lawsuits against the wireless communication industry. So far, no similar claims have been successful.

An attorney for Motorola criticized the methodology of the new report, which was written by Swedish oncologist Dr. Lennart Hardell.

Hardell studied 1,617 patients with brain tumors and compared them with a similar sized group of people without tumors. He found that patients who used Sweden's Nordic Mobile telephones were 30 percent more likely to have brain tumors, especially on the side of the head that touched the phone most often. Those who used the phones longer than 10 years were 80 percent more likely to develop tumors.

Newman's lawsuit claims the analog cell phones he used from 1992 to 1998 caused him to develop a cancerous brain tumor behind his right ear. The tumor was removed, but the doctor is blind in one eye, suffers memory loss and slowed speech and can no longer work, his lawyers say.

A spokesman for Motorola, Norman Sandler questioned the author's theory that tumors are more apt to develop near the ear that touches the receiver most often.

"His testimony raises significant questions about recall bias," Sandler said. "Do people who used the phones 10 years ago really remember what side of the head they used?"

"We have maintained for years that such assertions are groundless," Sandler said.

Cell phones are used by 97 million Americans. Digital phones emit radiation in pulses; older analog varieties emit continuous waves. By the time cell phones exploded in popularity in the late 1990's, most of those sold used digital technology.

Three major studies published since December 2000, including one by the U.S. National Cancer Institute, found no harmful health effects from cell phones.

Recently, the FDA announced that it will collaborate with the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) on additional laboratory and human studies of mobile phone safety. a "cooperative Research and Development Agreement" signed in June provides for research to be conducted by third parties, with industry funding and FDA oversight to help ensure the studies' quality.