Approximately every 7th couple in first-world countries has difficulties to conceive. In 40% of the cases these difficulties are related to male factor infertility. Sometimes seemingly harmless habits can damage the chances of having children. A 2014 study conducted by the University of Exeter found that when kept in a trouser pocket, mobile phone has a negative effect on the quality of sperm.
Mobile phones emit low-level RF electromagnetic radiation, which can cause rapid heating. Additionally, absorption of the signal by the human body may lead to DNA changes. Both these factors can damage the quality of sperm, as was demonstrated in several animal studies, which noted reduced sperm count and motility amongst male subjects exposed to mobile radiation.
The 2014 study was a systematic review of findings from 10 different studies, which included almost 1500 subjects, and examined the effect of mobiles on sperm motility, concentration and viability – three factors related to male factor infertility.
In 9 of the reviewed studies a significant connection was found between exposure to mobile phones and reduced sperm motility. Furthermore, 4 of 5 studies that examined the issue found that cell phone radiation also negatively impacted sperm viability. The effect on sperm concentration was less pronounced.
The researchers suspect that the aforementioned negative effects are more likely down to DNA damage than to heating. This is because while an increase to the temperature of the testes does damage sperm production, the decrease in sperm concentration was less drastic than the decrease in sperm motility and viability. It should be noted, however that the study population was taken from fertility clinics, so the sample may not be representative of the general population. Additionally, participant age and smoking status were not reported and their influence could not be assessed.