Cell phone radiation damages sperm: where do you place yours?

Cellular devices are everywhere these days, with no sign of going away anytime soon. Same goes for the radiation they produce. Unfortunately, their effect on you is disturbingly clear: According to a 2013 review of ten human studies compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), “cell phone radiation damages sperm”.

In fact, the EWG added, all ten studies included in its analysis “found statistically significant correlations between cell phone radiation and sperm health, and many found that the adverse changes increased with the amount of radiation exposure.”

While the debate over whether cell phones cause damage to human health continues to draw opinions from many different sides – including those put forth in a comprehensive FAQ from the National Cancer Institute -- one idea remains clear: Anyone who ignores the potential effects of cell phone-produced radiation does so at his or her peril.

This includes men concerned about the effects of radiation on their fertility, many of whom carry the devices in their front pockets or on their belts all day long – often in the hope that using a Bluetooth connection might minimize health risks.And even though cellular devices, like laptops, have over the years seen improvements designed to cut down on damaging heat and radiation, the threats remain present.

A 2016 review study examined 27 different scientific studies looking into the effects of radio frequency (RF) radiation, which is the kind that cell phones produce, and how it impacts a man’s reproductive system. 21 of the studies indicated some form of negative effect from RF waves, including DNA damage.

Furthermore, a great number of studies, including those profiled in a 2012 review published in the Journal of Andrology, have determined that “men using mobile phones have decreased sperm concentration, decreased motility [swimming mobility]…and decreased viability”.

And a 2017 study appearing in the Middle East Fertility Society Journal, while not conclusive, found that the time men spent receiving or sending messages over their smartphones “was significantly associated with decreasing sperm count”. Also, those male study subjects who carried their cellular devices in a front trouser pocket were strongly linked with an increase in sperm that displayed poor swimming ability.

However, other scientists conducting studies are less than sure that cell phone radiation negatively impacts male reproductive health – particularly while carrying a cell phone in a front pocket.

The office of public affairs for the University of Utah issued a June 2014 press release about the opinions of Dr. James Hotaling, described as an expert in male fertility and andrology. The grabby headline: No, Guys, Your Cellphone Is Not Making You Infertile.

“I’ve never seen conclusive data that would lead me to advise a patient against carrying a cellphone in his pocket,” said Hotaling, pointing out a host of flaws that could have distorted findings of previous studies. These include examining subjects only from fertility clinics, which amounts to “selection bias”, as well as the fact that “sperm count varies all the time, meaning from hour to hour, day to day, month to month.”

In order to gather a bona fide representative sample, said Hotaling, the quality of a man’s sperm would need to be monitored over a long period of time.

Dr. Timothy S. Jorgensen, director of the Health Physics and Radiation Protection Graduate Program and associate professor of Radiation Medicine, Georgetown University penned an overview of the issue, published in The Conversation, which echoed some of Hotaling’s concerns.

Jorgensen noted that isolated conclusions from individual labs and limited data from experiments don’t combine to set up a slam-dunk verdict on the connection of cell phone RF waves and male fertility.

He also went on to describe how radio waves aren’t unique to cell phones but have instead been around since Guglielmo Marconi invented his wireless machine, the forerunner of the modern radio, all the way back in 1901.

Jorgensen offered the argument that early radio workers were subjected to “massive doses of radio waves”. However, there has been no indication that any of them experienced negative effects on their fertility.

“If they didn’t experience fertility problems with their high doses,” he concluded, “how can the relatively low doses from cellphones have such an effect?”

Though scientists from many fields continue to explore and debate the significance of cell phone RF waves on male fertility, there’s no need to wait for a conclusion that could be years in the (possibly destructive) making.

Guard your assets today against potential damage from cell phone radiation before taking that safety step amounts to too little, too late.