A BT engineer is planning to sue his former employers, claiming protracted use of mobile phones has caused him brain damage.
Thirty-nine-year-old Stephen Corney says he suffers from severe short-term memory loss as a result of using mobile phones for long periods.
He left BT last year, after going on sick leave in 1996. He worked for the company for 10 years.
Mr Corney’s lawyers have issued a protective writ which means they have three months to compile scientific and medical evidence to back their case.
If they decide to go forward with the case – which would be the first of its kind in the UK – BT will be issued with a writ and could face a compensation claim of over £100,000.
Mr Corney, whose job involved installing telecom equipment and testing mobile phone coverage, claims his problems began after BT switched from analogue to digital phones.
He told a press conference at TUC headquarters on Sunday that using digital phones made him feel as if a “steel band” was tightening around his head.
He said his head would become hot and that he would often feel “punch drunk” after he finished using the mobile.
He often spent up to 90 minutes on a mobile at a time.
Mr Corney, who lives in Bedfordshire, explained how losing his short-term memory had affected his life.
“When I was first off work, I would go shopping and I would have to have everything on a list.
“I would then put the shopping in the boot of the car, get into the car and see the list and not realise I had already done it and so I would go back and do the shopping again,” he said.
His partner, Lisa Hutchings, said his condition had improved since he stopped work, but he still found it difficult to perform the simplest of tasks.
‘No convincing evidence’
Tom Jones, Mr Corney’s lawyer, said he was confident that the medical and scientific evidence would be found to back the claim.
“I have every belief that Stephen has gone through something which has been caused by mobile phones,” he said.
But a BT spokesman said there was “no convincing scientific evidence that mobile phones pose any health threat”.
However, he added that BT would continue to support research into mobile phones and their effect on health.
A spokesman for the National Radiological Protection Board, an independent body which advises on issues such as mobile phone use, said: “There is no firm evidence of any serious health effects from mobile phones.”
But he added: “We do support the need for research in this area.”
In recent years, there have been various health scares linked to mobile phones, including concerns that exposure to radiation caused cancer.
The spokesman said the NRPB was “as certain as we can be” that there is no evidence of mobiles causing cancer.
“But the brain is a very complex organ and it could be that prolonged use of mobiles could have an effect on brain function,” he said.
The NRPB is publishing a report on research on animals exposed to mobile phones later this year and the European Commission has just secured industry funding for a major research project into the area.
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