With the rise of smartphones and mobile technology, it was natural that people began to wonder what sorts of long-term effects these devices might be having on the body. Pressing a radio frequency receiver against the side of your head for hours every day seemed like it might be a bit of a risk, and most attention has focused on potential brain tumors and cancer caused by excessive cell phone use.
However, for all the gentlemen out there, a much larger problem could be brewing in your pants – but only if you tend to keep your cell phone in the pocket of your trousers.
Smartphones vs. Sperm
As we all know, smartphones do have a certain elevated temperature to them, and they’re constantly receiving information and social media updates in the form of electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation, and that sort of energy doesn’t just disappear. It seems like common sense to keep your phone in your pocket for easy access, but it also makes sense to do a bit of research and find out what interactions are happening below your belt. A number of studies have been conducted across the world, and the results have been published in Environment International to the Journal of Andrology, and everywhere in between.
As it turns out, researchers have found conclusive evidence that cell phone proximity to male testicles can have a negative impact on a man’s sperm count and motility. One of the more prestigious studies found an 8% decrease in sperm motility and an approximate 9% decrease in sperm viability.
Those two words – motility and viability – may be new to some of you. Essentially, motility means the ability of the sperm to swim, which is important if fertilization of the egg is meant to happen. Viability, on the other hand, describes a man’s fertility, essentially measuring the number of living vs. non-living sperm. An 8% drop in speed may not seem like a huge percentage, but when you realize that cell phones are not only slowing your sperm down, but also killing them, it may be cause for alarm.
What’s Actually Happening Down There?
Cell phone radiation is nearly unavoidable in today’s plugged-in world, but keeping it close to such vital organs (like the head or genitals) isn’t the best idea. There are a number of restrictions and regulations on the amount of EMR that a cell phone can emit (typically below 2.0 W/kg), but that is still a measurable amount of radiation, which could be damaging DNA by increasing the amount of free radicals present in the testicles. This can lead to infertility and inviable sperm, as these studies have shown, and may increase your risks of testicular cancer, although conclusive research for that prediction is still ongoing.
Furthermore, when you keep a cell phone in your pocket, pressed against your skin, it tends to raise the base skin temperature by more than 2 degrees Celsius. The male testicles have carefully adapted to maintain an ideal temperature for the growth and health of sperm, and this small increase in temperature next to the testicles may be enough to incapacitate or kill sperm.
Other studies have identified significant drops in sperm count, and heightened levels of oxidative stress in the testicles and changes in sperm morphology. Some of these changes were seen in lab-dish experiments where sperm were exposed to EMF radiation for one hour. A percentage of the sperm changed to an abnormal shape or lost the ability to attach to an egg – thereby making it impossible for fertilization to occur.
None of this is good news for prospective parents who are also on-the-go tech lovers that hardly ever leave their smartphone behind. Infertility already affects more than 10% of men 25 and over, and it is hardly a surprise that infertility rates are rising. While many people blame environmental pollutants, stress levels, changing cultural norms, and natural infertility, increasing the amount of male cell phone users by about 1.5 billion in the past decade could also have an effect on those rising numbers.
How to Keep the Swimmers Safe
The amount of time being exposed to cell phone EMF radiation was cited as a major factor, as was proximity to the “affected area”. The best solution for this problem would obviously be to keep your cell phone somewhere besides your belt or pocket – perhaps in a bag or a shirt pocket, on your desk at work, or even left at home entirely!
Certain phone brands also emit higher levels of EMF radiation, and therefore have more of an impact on sperm production and function. Smartphones and Blackberries, for example, emit more EMF than traditional phones.
The amount of radiation absorbed by the body decreases by 15% with every millimeter of distance, so even adding a case to your smartphone, or keeping the phone in a coat pocket, could make a major difference to your sperm count, motility, and viability. Or, you could just do this….
It has become second nature to slip our phones into our pocket when we’re done using them, but for any men who are interested in fathering a child (next week, next year, next decade…), avoiding excessive “pocket exposure” to EMF radiation is extremely important!