Neil Whitfield, 60, says he developed an acoustic neuroma tumour due to heavy phone use for his job in the late 1990s

 By Grace Macaskill   12 MAY 2018

A salesman who suffered a brain tumour is suing Nokia for ­“significant” compensation which could hit £1million – in a case that could cost mobile phone firms a fortune.

Father-of-six Neil Whitfield, 60, claims heavy mobile phone use in the late 1990s caused a deadly growth.

His job meant using a phone for long spells – and in the days before it was illegal he had the gadget pressed to his ear while driving.

Neil developed an acoustic neuroma tumour on a nerve between his inner ear and brain.

He was left deaf in one ear after surgery in 2001 to remove a growth the size of a golf ball. He also suffers with balance problems.


An x-ray of the tumour that appeared in Neil’s brain


Neil said: “I have no doubt my tumour was caused by mobile phones.

“I spent almost five years glued to my phone hours at a time until I was diagnosed. I could feel the heat coming off it.

“I know this is going to be a real David and Goliath battle. It might take a while before it’s settled but I won’t give up.

“This is for the future of my children and kids everywhere.”

Neil is the first Brit to sue a mobile phone company on these grounds and the case – six years in the making – could trigger hundreds of similar claims.


His battle for “significant” ­compensation comes as a controversial report alleges cell phones could be behind a surge in certain tumours.

Solicitor Katrina Pope, of London Corporate Legal, in Mayfair, expects to make a “strong claim” by the end of 2018.

Katrina, who has been working unpaid on the case since 2012, said: “A win in the High Court could set a legal precedent for other cases which we are aware of and that are watching our progress.

“It is ultimately about justice for many people who have, akin to Neil, been victims of what some experts describe as the ‘smoking gun of the 21st century’.




Neil believes using his Nokia phone had a devastating effect on his health




“Neil’s personal injury claim is outside the legal time frame of three years. We argue it’s only now that the technology exists for radiation testing to allow us to bring the case – the first in Britain.”

Millions of Brits used Nokia phones in the 1990s. In 1995 just seven per cent of Brits had a cell phone but by 1999 one was sold every four seconds – and Nokia was the biggest manufacturer of mobiles.

Figures published last week show cases of a brain tumour called glioblastoma in England rose from 983 to 2,531 between 1995 and 2015. It is found in the forehead and side regions of the brain.

And a study in the Journal of Public Health and Environment found higher rates of tumours in the frontal ­tem-poral lobe which “raises the suspicion mobile and cordless phone use may be promoting gliomas”.


The surgeon who operated on Neil has not ruled out the possibility that the phone caused the tumour


Neil, from Wigan, Gtr Manchester, had to give up his job as a construction material salesman because he refused to carry on using mobiles. His claim centres around years of lost income and reduced ­retirement payments after a £20,000-a-year drop in pay to become a college lecturer.

Katrina added: “It is quite possible that a claim for life-changing damages such as Neil’s could achieve a compensation award in the region of £1million.”

The law firm has commissioned experts to carry out radiation tests on Nokia phones used by Neil, including the 5510. Katrina said: “The evidence is being collated.”


The surgeon who removed Neil’s tumour at Manchester’s Royal ­Infirmary, Professor Shakeel Saeed, said of the case: “At a personal level one cannot rule out the risk based on the current evidence.”

The debate over possible hazards has raged for 20 years. Scientific studies have mostly concluded they pose no peril at the level of most people’s use.

One expert backing Neil, Dr Erica Mallery-Blythe, specialises in conditions related to radio frequency ­radiation and other ­electromagnetic fields. She cited a study by the American National Toxicology Program, which she said demonstrated “clear evidence” of ­schwannoma – tumours of nerve sheath – after testing mobile phone radiation on rats.

Occupational and environmental consultant Colin Purnell said older phones held a greater risk because there were fewer masts in the 1990s and mobiles had to emit greater radiation levels to pick up signals.


Neil’s phones will be subject to radiation tests as part of the court battle


Cancer Research moved to quell panic, saying there is no conclusive evidence that mobiles cause problems.

Dr Lion Shahab, senior lecturer in ­epidemiology and public health at ­University College London, said: “Many environmental and lifestyle factors have changed. While there has been a rise in this type of tumour, it would be premature to conclude this is due to mobile phones.”

While experts are divided on the risks, Neil, meanwhile, told how his life has been greatly affected. He said: “I can’t even wear a hearing aid because all my inner ear organs had to be removed.

“If I go swimming and close my eyes I go round in circles. I loved music but I’ve been robbed of that too because the stereo element has been taken away.


“My youngest son Harry, 13, is desperate for a mobile but I worry about giving him one. Companies should at least put ­warnings on packaging so people can make informed choices. I just hope the legal action makes a change for the good.”

Last night Nokia said safety “has always been a key consideration”.

A spokesman said: “All products comply with ­international exposure guidelines and limits that are set by public health ­authorities.

“The World Health ­Organisation factsheet states that ‘A large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk. To date, no adverse health effects have been ­established for mobile phone use’.”


More radiation as old phones found a signal

Experts claim old mobile phones carried a greater health risk than modern units as they produced greater radiation to receive signals.

Colin Purnell, an environmental consultant, says early models had to emit more radiofrequency to connect with fewer masts available in the 1990s.

He said: “If you are looking at something in the distance and you can’t see it you might want to use a pair of binoculars to improve the power of your eyes.

“Well, it’s the same with mobile phones. In the old days there weren’t as many masts as now and if you operated your phone in a bad signal area it chucked out more radiation to find the power base. The risk associated with mobile phone use now is probably less then in the ’90s.

“There are more masts and the technology is better to detect signals without a lot of radiation.”

He said the way people use their phones today – using texts or Skype – also reduces the risk because it keeps phones away from the face.


World is glued to UK case

An Italian lawyer whose landmark case ruled a link between tumours and mobile phones said Neil’s battle would be watched by the world.

Stefano Bertone won a state-funded pension for Roberto Romeo, 57, after claiming excessive mobile use caused his acoustic neuroma tumour – the same type as Neil’s.

Roberto who used his phone for work for three to four hours every day for 15 years.


A court in Ivrea, Italy, awarded him £418 a month under a government workplace insurance scheme.

Stefano said: “We watch the UK case with interest. The argument required to prove causation in Roberto’s case against a government agency was less than would be required in a case against the manufacturer. The outcome in Mr Whitfield’s case will be used in other cases across the world.

“In America the class action is tied up in lengthy legal process, so Europe really is leading the field.”