By Avdhesh Kumar : Men who use mobile phones could be risking their fertility, warn researchers. A study found a worrying link between poor sperm and the amount of time a man spends on his mobile.
By using mobile phones for long periods, you may be at risk of damaging your sperm!
A new research presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in New Orleans showed a drop in sperm count and quality with increased usage of mobile phones.
The research, which covered 361 men attending a fertility clinic, was conducted by Prof.Ashok Agarwal, director of the reproductive research Centre and colleagues at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine.
Though scientists say that further research is needed to confirm the findings, the study has created concern and curiosity among the scientists and the mobile users around the world.
Dr.Agarwal stressed that the study did not prove mobile phones were damaging male fertility, but urged scientists to investigate the possibility.
“There was a significant decrease in the most important measures of sperm health and that should definitely be reflected in a decrease in fertility, which is seen worldwide,” he said.
“People use mobile phones without thinking twice what the consequences might 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 be having a huge impact because mobiles are so much part of our lives.”
Almost 1 billion people use mobile phones around the world and the number is growing in many countries at 20 per cent – 30 per cent annually, this is alarming news.
Results of tests on the men’s sperm showed significant declines in four standard measures of sperm quality, including count, viability, motility and shape, with a definite link to the average amount of time spent using their phones daily.
Men who used mobile phones for more than four hours a day were found to have median sperm counts of 50 million per millilitre.
Those using mobiles for two to four hours a day had sperm counts of 59 million per millilitre, increasing to 69 million per millilitre for less than two hours’ usage a day and 86 million per millilitre for men who did not use mobile phones.
According to the World Health Organization, a normal sperm count can be anything between 20 million and 200 million per millilitre.
Dr.Agarwal said mobile phone radiation may harm sperm by damaging DNA, disrupting cells that produce testosterone in the testes, or shrinking the tubules where sperm are created. “It is true that all the men in the study were seeking infertility treatment, but not all these men have fertility problems themselves,” he said.
Hitting below the belt
Recent research undertaken in Hungary also concluded that men who carry mobile phones in their pockets may risk damaging their sperm count by as much as 30 per cent. The study suggests that the radiation from a phone on a belt or in their pocket, even on standby, is enough to have an effect on both sperm count, and the mobility of surviving sperm.
The study, which looked at 221 men, compared the sperm count of men who carried a handset for most of the day with the sperm of those who did not own a phone.Dr Imre Fejes of the University of Szeged in Hungary led the research and thus he reported that the average sperm counts of men who were very active phone users was around 59 million per millilitre of seminal fluid, compared with 83 million for the men without phones.
Fejes acknowledged that further studies were needed to confirm the findings, but concluded that “prolonged use of cellphones may have a negative effect on spermatogenesis and male fertility that presumably deteriorates both concentration and motility”.
The results presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, Berlin, Germany, have been received cautiously by the scientific community. Professor Hans Evers, a gynaecologist from the Academic Hospital in Maastricht, the Netherlands, said the research had not considered other factors, such as age and background that would have an impact on fertility.
“It is an observational as opposed to interventional study which appears not to take into account the many potential confounding factors which could have skewed the results. For example, what if heavy mobile phone users in Hungary have particularly stressful lives and jobs?” Factors like this would have a considerable effect on the outcome of the research, he told.
Another study at Newcastle University in New South Wales showed that blasting mice with radiowaves similar to mobile phone radiation 12 hours a day for a week damaged the DNA in their sperm.
In India, according to a study conducted at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), 40%-50% males have problem with the quality of their sperm. Another study by Paulraj R. and J. Behari of JNU also suggested that chronic exposure to mobile radiations cause cell death (DNA fragmentation) and decrease in sperm cell. Nevertheless, the safety of cell phone radiation is a debatable issue still.
But scientists as well as the monitoring bodies have already started to take the issue seriously. The independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR) issued a report in January 2007, having reviewed the extant body of research. This concluded: “It is not possible at present to say that exposure to RF(radiofrequency) radiation, even at levels below the guidelines, is totally without potential adverse health effects, and that the gaps in knowledge are sufficient to justify a precautionary approach.”