Studies over the past several years have begun painting a picture of a less fertile population, where sperm counts are lower and scientists are not sure why. However, new research from the University of Exeter this month pinpoints cell phones as having a detrimental effect on sperm counts, and suggests men who keep their phones in their front pockets find some other way to tote their device.
“The implications are likely to be greatest for subgroups of men with multiple exposures to different factors which act together to affect their sperm; and possibly for men who already have borderline fertility,” said researcher Fiona Mathews, PhD., discussing the findings of her work to the Huffington Post.
Dr. Mathews analyzed ten recent studies, looking at sperm quality in men exposed to cell phone radiation. The studies included 1,492 samples, some looked at in a lab and some observational studies in humans. Both types of studies, Mathews found, had similarly consistent findings: that sperm count was slightly but noticeably affected by cell phones.
Sperm motility (the measurement of sperm swimming normally) was decreased an average of 8.1 percent in samples exposed to electromagnetic radiation from cell phones, while there was a 9.1 percent decrease on average in sperm viability (those sperm found to be alive).
Mathews says that while the research is interesting and certainly deserves a closer look, it doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.
“We need to remember that sperm quality is very variable naturally, and men with a wide range of ‘motility’ and ‘vitality’ measures can still be considered normal and achieve a pregnancy,” said Mathews.
There are several factors that could influence sperm health, with cell phone radiation being only one of them. Other sources are to blame as well, including BPA (the chemical found in many modern food plastics), stress, obesity, sexually transmitted infections, pesticides, especially laptops, and even watching television.
A good number of these influencers have increased with the decrease in global sperm counts, indicating the cause of fertility problems is a complex one indeed. While minimizing the use of or exposure to these causes is important, it isn’t always practical. You could also consume fertility-promoting foods to boost reproductive health, such as walnuts, pomegranates, Brussels Sprouts, and fish.