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Mobile phone use linked to decreased sperm count

30 October 2006
Appeared in BioNews 382

A new study has reported its findings that heavy mobile phone use is correlated to a decline in male fertility. The study, led by Dr Ashok Agarwal, and reported at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in New Orleans, found that men who talked on their mobile phones for more than four hours a day had lower sperm counts than infrequent, or non-users of mobile phones. The researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio tested 364 men who were attending a fertility clinic in Mumbai with their partners.

The men were divided into four categories - those who used a mobile phone for more than four hours a day, those who used it for two to four hours, those who used it for less than two hours and those who never used a mobile phone. The researchers found that overall sperm counts for the four groups declined in line with the increasing phone use so that men with the heaviest use recorded just 50.3 million sperm per millilitre, rising to 58.87 for those who used the phone for two to four hours, 69.03 for light users and 85.89 million per millilitre for those who never used a mobile phone. The same pattern was also seen for other indicators of sperm quality including motility (swimming ability), viability (whether non-swimming sperm are still alive) and morphology. Heaviest users of mobile phones showed sperm motility to be down by a third, compared with non-users.

This research backs up a previous study by Hungarian researchers who found a link between 'heavy use' of a mobile phone and a 30 per cent drop in sperm counts. This new research, as with the previous study, does not correct for other factors which may be influencing the results. Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield said, 'This is a good quality study but I don't think it tackles the issue. If you're using your phone for four hours a day, presumably it is out of your pocket for longer. That raises a big question: how is it that testicular damage is supposed to occur?' Dr Pacey continued, 'Maybe people who use a phone for four hours a day spend more time sitting in cars, which could mean there's a heat issue. It could be they are more stressed, or more sedentary and sit about eating junk food getting fat. Those seem to be better explanations than a phone causing the damage at such a great distance'.

Study lead Dr Ashok explained why the results were so important saying, 'Almost a billion people are using cell phones around the world and the number is growing in many countries at 20 to 30 per cent a year. In another five years the number is going to double. People use mobile phones without thinking twice what the consequences may be. It is just like using a toothbrush but mobiles could be having a devastating effect on fertility. It still has to be proved but it could have a huge impact because mobiles are so much part of our lives'.

Excessive use of mobiles may be causing dramatic drop in sperm count
The Daily Telegraph |  25 October 2006
Heavy mobile use 'damages sperm'
BBC News Online |  24 October 2006
Men who use mobile phones face increased risk of infertility
The Daily Mail |  23 October 2006
Mobiles may decrease men's fertility
The Times |  23 October 2006
Warning to male mobile phone users: chatting too long may cut sperm count
The Guardian |  24 October 2006
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