20 June 2011
ask the doctor: cellphones & sperm count
Story by Dr John Ferguson
Worried the habit of keeping your cellphone in your pocket is ruining your ability to procreate?
We have been suspicious of our cellphones for some time now. Popular culture has blamed them for a myriad of ills. Recently the LA Times, Fox News, and the Daily Mail have all run stories suggesting that cellphones on belts or in front pockets, in addition to being crimes against fashion, might also have an adverse effect on sperm production and function.
Backing these media claims is an increasing body of scientific evidence that further confirms these suspicions.
The best studies from those that I have read come from the highly regarded Cleveland Clinic, a leading academic research centre in the United States.
The first study involved placing an ‘in-use’ cellphone (one that’s actually connected to a live call) 2.5 cm from a freshly donated sperm sample, and comparing the characteristics of this sperm to a sample not exposed to a phone that’s ‘in-use.’ Those samples exposed to the ‘in-use’ phone clearly showed signs of damage. This study was set up to mimic the affects of the god-awful American affliction of carrying phones in holsters on belts and using bluetooth headsets. This study, however, does not reflect the more common New Zealand gentlemens’ practice of carrying a phone on standby in the pocket.
The Cleveland Clinic’s next study looked at over 300 subjects and grouped them according to cellphone usage per day. Group A consisted of users with zero hours of cellphone use per day, to group D who had greater than four hours of cellphone use. The results showed a frighteningly clear relationship between high hours of daily use and low sperm quality. The high use candidates exhibited a distinct lack in sperm motility (the ability of the sperm to swim in the direction of the egg for fertilisation) and sperm viability (the number of sperm that are actually alive).
The suspected culprit of all of this is the electromagnetic radiation emitted when cellphone calls are ongoing. This type of radiation is said to also play a part in other medical conditions such as sleep disorders, blood pressure and DNA strand breakage.
It would therefore appear that it doesn’t matter where you store your phone, but rather, how much talking or texting you’re doing with it. With the location of the phone more of an issue if you use a headset whilst keeping the phone at or around waist level – something we would never condone for sartorial reasons alone.