A new study warns that men who carry cell phones in their trouser pockets are likely to reduce their chances of becoming a father.
Scientists at the University of Exeter in UK claim that radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) emitted by cell phones has a negative impact on male fertility.
AdvertisementMost of the global adult population possess mobile phones, and around 14% of couples in rich countries have problems conceiving.
Dr. Fiona Mathews at the University of Exeter carefully examined findings from 10 studies, including 1,492 samples, to figure out the potential risk involved in exposure to cell phone radiation. Study participants were from research centers and fertility clinics.
The studies used three different yardsticks to measure sperm quality. They were motility, which is the capacity of sperm to move closer to an egg; viability, which is the proportion of living sperm; concentration, which is the number of sperm per unit of semen.
The movement of 50-85% of sperm was normal in control groups, but exposure to cell phones led to a fall in this rate by about 8 percentage points.
Sperm viability study also showed similar results. But, sperm concentration studies did not present a clear picture.
Dr Mathews said, 'Given the enormous scale of mobile phone use around the world, the potential role of this environmental exposure needs to be clarified. This study strongly suggests that being exposed to radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation from carrying mobiles in trouser pockets negatively affects sperm quality. This could be particularly important for men already on the borderline of infertility, and further research is required to determine the full clinical implications for the general population.'
Controlled condition vitro studies and observational in vivo studies in the general population produced identical results.
The researchers cautioned that handheld gadgets may work in conjunction with radiation from internet wifi and other technologies to cause a global increase in infertility rates.
They said that 'cumulative' radiation from modern technology may have a 'cumulative' effect on sperm.
The authors write, 'For example, recent evidence found wifi from laptops also negatively affected sperm quality. A better understanding of the collective influence of environmental factors on sperm quality and subsequent fertility, will help improve treatment, advice and support for individuals seeking fertility treatment.'
India's Inter Ministerial Group recently suggested some important guidelines for mobile handsets.
The group suggested revising the limit of 2 watts per kilogram averaged over 10 grams tissue to 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over 1 gram tissue. They also proposed mandatory declaration of radiation level for each mobile phone. The group also recommended introduction of radiation standards ten times as rigid as the existing ones - from f/200 watts per square meter to f/2000 watts per square meter. They also cautioned against installation of mobile towers close to high-density residential areas, schools, playgrounds and hospitals.
The committee drew inspiration from a research on cell phone hazards undertaken by Girish Kumar, professor in department of electrical engineering at IIT Bombay. His research found a 40% increase in brain cancer risk among teenagers exposed to cell phones for a long period. Girish Kumar said as children have thinner skulls, they are more prone to electromagnetic radiation penetration.
Another Jawaharlal Nehru University study also brought to light the detrimental effects of radiation from mobile towers and mobile phones on male fertility.
But, Dr Allan Pacey, a leading fertility expert at the University of Sheffield, sought to play down the latest study findings.
'In my opinion, the studies undertaken to date have been somewhat limited. That's because they have either sperm kept in a dish irradiated at frequencies used by mobile phones - which is not realistic - or they have made assessments of men's phone habits without adequately considering other aspects of their lifestyle. What we need are some properly designed epidemiological studies where mobile phone use is considered alongside other lifestyle habits. Until that time, I will be continuing to keep my iPhone in my trouser pocket!' he said.