Effects of Electromagnetic Energy on Sperm


Modern lifestyle and conveniences such as cell phones and laptop computers may have adverse effects on male fertility.

Cell Phones

Cell phones emit non-ionizing radiation (electromagnetic energy in waves), a form of energy different from ionizing radiation commonly found in X-rays and radioactive materials.

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.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has published a comprehensive review on cell phone radiation and the potential damage to sperm. In June 2012, the EWG review identified ten peer-reviewed human studies that have associated cell phone use with changes in sperm. The studies reviewed indicate that exposure to cell phone radiation may lead to decreases in sperm count and motility, as well as altering sperm DNA and morphology (shape of the sperm). Men who carry the cell phones in their pants pocket or attached to their belt may be at the greatest risk.

Laptop Computers

Laptop computers represent a source of both electromagnetic energy exposure (Wi-Fi) as well as thermal energy (heat).

There is a small but growing body of literature showing potential adverse effects on human sperm. In a laboratory experiment (in vitro), human donor sperm samples were exposed to four hours of a laptop computer connected to Wi-Fi. A significant decrease in progressive motility and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation (breaks in the chromosomes) were observed.[1] Whether or not these changes are also seen in men (in vivo) has yet to be demonstrated.

The heat generated by laptop computers while held in the lap can cause significant elevation (> 1º C) in scrotal temperature within 15 minutes. 29 healthy men participated in two, one-hour exposure sessions.[2] The temperature changes can occur from both heat generated by the laptop and the sitting position. Whether this relates to real-world changes in sperm function and fertility has yet to be shown. There are a number of past studies, however, that indicate a significantly negative impact on increased scrotal temperature and sperm production and quality.

What you should know:

  1. Men should limit carrying a cell phone in their pants pocket or wearing on a belt holder.
  2. Limit the use of laptop computers in the lap position especially for teenage boys, young men of the reproductive age and men attempting pregnancy.
  3. Avoid all forms of scrotal heat exposure.
  4. Further studies on both electromagnetic energy and thermal effects on male reproductive health are needed.
  5. I was unable to find published studies looking at the effects of cell phone radiation and reproductive health in women.
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[1] Fertil Steril: 2012; 97(1) 39-45

[2] Hum. Reprod: 2005 20(2): 452-455