Even Hands Free Cell Phone Use Can Affect Male FertilitySep 22, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic are warning that cell phone use, including hands-free devices—can affect male fertility. The information appears in the journal Fertility and Sterility. Men are warned to ensure that the devices are not kept in proximity to their testicles.
It seems that the men who use hand-free cell phone devices have a tendency to keep the phones in their pants pocket or clipped to the waist belts when the phones are in talk mode. These practices may be exposing their testicles to damaging radiofrequency electromagnetic waves, explains Ashok Agarwal, PhD, head of the andrology laboratory and the director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine at the Glickman Urologoical and Kidney Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. "The Bluetooth devices, which many people are using these days because of health or safety concerns, may not be always so safe. There is a downside," he says.
The researchers collected semen samples from 32 men, splitting each man’s sample into two parts and placing half of the semen samples 2.5 centimeters away from an 850 MHz frequency cell phone in talk mode for one hour. This MHz frequency was chosen because most American cell are 850-900 MHz; the distance was chosen as it was representative of the typical distance between the testes and the trouser pockets.
While earlier research from the same group indicated that such emitted radiofrequency electromagnetic waves from cell phones can impair sperm quality, this new study explains why this occurs. It seems that semen exposed to radiofrequency electromagnetic waves emitted from cell phones had higher levels of damaging free radicals, lower sperm motility—which is the sperm’s ability to move and swim and is necessary for procreation—and lower sperm viability, which relates to the number of live sperm. Exposure may also cause greater oxidative stress. There were no significant differences in DNA damage between the exposed and unexposed groups. "Our findings appear to be in line with other concerns that environmental factors such as toxins, pollutants, and materials used in farming play a role in male infertility," Agarwal says.
Agarwal noted that additional study is warranted and "We will also test the effect [of radiofrequency electromagnetic waves emitted from cell phones] at other distances," he said. "We know the radiation impairs sperm quality at 2.5 centimeters, but we don't know if the effect will continue at 3, 4, or 5 centimeters," he said.
Future studies will determine if there is dangerous emission when the phone is in silent or standby mode. "The emission may be smaller than when in talk mode, but could it still be harmful if it reaches the testes," he says.
Sami David, MD, a New York City-based reproductive endocrinologist said, "You want it to stay far away from the testicles," he says. "I am more worried about the people that talk for three or four hours a day with the cell phone in their pocket than those who talk for shorter periods." Likewise, "Men should not place their laptop on their laps due to the heat from the battery," he noted adding that, "Jacuzzis, tub baths, toxins, and fumes can all play a role in male infertility and should be discussed."