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Tristan Hallam considers mobile phone use - why we are all guilty as charged?

By Principal Lawyer, Occupiers and Public Liability

For those of us who are old enough to remember when mobile phones did not exist and indeed when they did come into being, were just about small enough to carry out in a briefcase, we can also no doubt recall that it was very much a time of new beginnings as far as electronics were concerned, with the growth of the internet and computers becoming even more complex and cheaper as the demand increased.

I remember pondering at the time how mobile phones work, that this had something to do with radio or microwave and wondering in addition, what harm this might be causing to us in the long run. Of course the transmission used in mobile phones is likely to be so small or perhaps more accurately, ‘weak’ that any effect upon us will either not materialise at all because it causes no discernable harm to us or indeed is of such a weak degree as far as overall strength is concerned, that the latency period for any harm is likely to span a number of years.

There has been very little in the press over the last years since mobile phones were first widely available on the harm use of mobile phones could cause. Occasionally, and by this I mean that probably on average no more than every 5 years, an article appears linking mobile phones with development of certain conditions and warning against excessive use.

Perhaps it is for this reason that I increasingly see people talking to themselves! By this I mean that rather than holding a mobile phone to their ear and not for any comfort reason, they use instead an earpiece with a small microphone attached to the lead so that the mobile phone itself sits in a pocket well away from the head.

I have no idea from a physics perspective, whether this is likely to avoid microwaves being introduced to the head area. I know that the area around the ear is very sensitive. The thickness of the skull is no doubt less around this area as compared to other areas of the skull around the forehead although I wonder whether this makes any difference.

I still have concerns that we might potentially be sitting on a time bomb.Over the years there have been a number of events that have affected the field of personal injury law. What stands out in most people’s minds is the exposure to asbestos which started off with the usual latency period of some 30 years with claims being brought initially by those who had been directly exposed to asbestos, laggers working on ships, lagging boilers or dismantling boilers and removing asbestos.

Over time claims were brought by members of the family of those who worked directly with asbestos, where the employees used to come home with overalls covered with asbestos dust which would then be shaken out by wives and loved ones causing those members of the family in turn to be exposed to asbestos dust.

I have mentioned previously in a blog that it was thought that the number of asbestos claims would peak some 10 years ago. They have still not and we still keep pushing the years forward when we consider that the asbestos claims will finally begin to diminish.

If however, and I have no wish to in any way be a scare monger and therefore my blog is couched in the widest possible terms, it is ultimately shown that the use of mobile phones can lead to injuries, the number of claims made will outstrip by far any previous personal injury claim involving multiple Claimants.

I am sure arguments will be raised, some Claimants might be more susceptible than others, some mobiles phones might work at a different intensity and no doubt doubts will be raised by companies making mobile phones. Questions will be raised whether claims can be brought directly against those companies or alternatively by the service providers and these are all issues that may have to be ironed out in time, if necessary through the Courts.

I certainly hope that I am wrong in my comments. I hope that this blog does not become a prediction of what may happen in the future. Perhaps like those forecasting the weather, we can but hope for the best.

Tristan Hallam is a Principal Lawyer in Personal Injury in the London office of Slater and Gordon Lawyers.

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