Mobile Phones Use and Sperm Quality – Since the invention of microwaves, cell phones, and WiFi, there have been concerns about the invisible waves emitted by these devices. Conventional wisdom says there are not many dangers from these devices. Non-ionizing radiation output means that the radio waves emitted from these devices aren’t strong enough to remove electrons from atoms or molecules. Therefore, they can’t, in theory, have a major negative effect on our bodies’ cells.
But scientists never assume they know everything, so cellular phones have been brought back into the spotlight as a possible cause of sperm quality decline. With sperm quality and sperm count declining around the world at an alarming rate, it only makes sense to look at a wide range of possible causes. Perhaps the wireless radiators we carry around in our pockets is a good place to start. While nothing definitive has been found yet, there is a smoking gun that’s been found across multiple studies.
In a research paper published in the Central European Journal of Urology in 2014, 32 healthy men with “normal semen parameters” provided samples for a study. Each sample was split into even portions, in A and B groups. The A group was maintained in a thermostatic incubator for 5 hours, while the B group was treated the same, but with the addition of a mobile phone in the test chamber.
The sperm samples were then inspected for quality to determine whether they were potentially effected by the mobile phone. Sperm counts did not change significantly, nor did it differ between the two groups. Nor did the number of dead sperm show any grand difference. However, the group exposed to the mobile phone showed a significantly lower number of sperm displaying progressive movement. In fact, this B group also showed a greater number of sperm displaying non-progressive movement. Levels of DNA fragmentation was also higher in the mobile phone exposed group. It bears noting that DNA fragmentation and lower motility are not what you want for good fertility outcomes.
Another study in 2015 was published in theInternational Journal of Fertility & Sterility, finding similar results. In this study, 124 semen samples were similarly split, with one group exposed to cellphone radiation for 1 hour, while the other was left alone. This study similarly detected elevated levels of DNA fragmentation in the exposed group, along with varied gene expression and protein levels. Sperm motility was also decreased in the exposed group.
More recently, a study hunted for a link between self-reported phone use and semen quality in young men. The sample size was a healthy 2886 men from the Swiss population, aged 18 to 22 years old. The researchers found that higher frequencies of phone use (over 20 times per day) were associated with lower sperm concentrations and lower total sperm counts. Analysis found a 30% and 21% increased risk respectively for sperm concentration or sperm counts to be below WHO reference values for fertile men. Interestingly, the study also looked at the impact of phone storage locations, with men who stored their phones in their pockets found not to be at increased risk of poorer performing sperm. The study also didn’t find any impact on motility with regards to frequency of phone use.
Taking a broader view, meta studies have found a growing indication that there is some kind of negative impact on sperm from phone use. It’s unclear the extent of the problem, or the direct impact on fertility, but studies taken in 2014 and in 2021 both concluded that phone use was harmful to sperm quality.
There is a caveat though. Some research has indicated long-running trends in which sperm quality has been declining in certain populations for many decades – as much as 40 or 50 years. The problem here is that cellular phone use has really only been a major factor for maybe the last 25 years. After all, you can go back to any late 90s sitcom and note that the storylines are often completely free of cellular phones which might have otherwise impacted the proceedings. It was the early 2000s when the cellphone became a default item for adults and youths in the developed world.