In 2012, I published a blog on the effects of electromagnetic energy on sperm.
There continues to be new information reported on the potential impact of cell phones and male fertility. Here is a brief update on what we now understand:
- Cell phones emit non-ionizing radiation (electromagnetic waves-EMW). This form of energy is different from ionizing radiation such as X-rays and radioactive materials.
- Electromagnetic waves may have both thermal and non-thermal effects.
- Not all cell phones have the same electromagnetic radiation output. Even when a phone is on and not in use, it send outs an intermittent signal to connect with nearby cell phone towers.
- Laboratory studies have shown changes in sperm parameters in exposed animal models.
- Direct exposure of human sperm to EMW demonstrates reduced motility (movement) and increased damage to the sperm DNA.
- At least 10 peer-reviewed human studies have now been published looking at the potential association between cell phone use and changes in sperm parameters.
- The studies do not all report the same findings. Study designs and sample size greatly vary.
Changes reported include:
- Decrease in sperm count
- Decreased sperm motility: total and progressive
- Decreased sperm viability
- Increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress
- Increased abnormal sperm morphology
- Increased sperm DNA fragmentation
- Studies looking at blood hormone levels in men have reported both normal and high levels of testosterone. One study reports decreased LH levels.
- A 2013 study involving 30 men from Austria reported a potential link between cell phone usage and erectile dysfunction (ED).
- It appears that men who carry the cell phones in their pants pocket or wear on their belt may be at the greatest risk.
- The duration and intensity of exposure appear to be important factors.
Take home points:
- A direct association between male infertility and cell phone exposure has not been proven.
- Cell phone use and the effect(s) on human sperm remain uncertain. While there are more studies now published, the data remains limited. Larger, adequately controlled studies on both electromagnetic energy and thermal effects on male reproductive health are needed.
- As a precaution, consider keeping the cell phone away from the body. Given the possible associations between cell phones and the potential adverse effects on the sperm, men should limit/avoid carrying their cell phone in the pants pocket or wearing on a belt holder when in use. This may be most important in men who plan on actively attempting to father a child and in men with known male factor infertility.
- If you do carry your cell phone in the pants pocket or on a belt holder, turn it off when not in use.
- Utilize the speaker function and consider texting to reduce exposure to EMW radiation.
Related Reading: Integrative Medicine Treatments