As soon as mobile phones were small enough to fit into pockets, rumors started flying that radiation is "frying" the poor old testicles of men. But is there any science behind this? Or is it all just a modern-day old wives' tales?
A new review has looked at 27 scientific studies investigating the effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation on the male reproductive system. The researchers from the University of Newcastle in Australia found that 21 of these studies reported some kind of negative consequences of the radiation. The effects tended to stay the same across the board, mainly centered around a decrease in sperm motility and viability as well as evidence of DNA damage.
Previously, it had remained unclear whether the negative health effects of keeping your phone in your pocket could actually have to do with the heat they produce. Even the negative effects attributed to electromagnetic radiation in the scientific studies could simply be the effect of heat.
Another study from this year found that the sperm levels of men who kept their phones in their front pocket were seriously affected in 47 percent of cases, compared to just 11 percent of those who don’t. Although the authors cited electromagnetic radiation as a concern, they believed the main culprit was the heat emitted by the mobile overheating or “cooking” the sperm. Additionally, numerous studies (here, here, and here, for example) have found no evidence that mobile phone waves are causing brain cancer – another similar urban legend.
Nevertheless, the researchers here argue that sperm could be a different case to the other cells of the body. In the study, they explain that a “unique vulnerability of the highly specialized sperm cell" is particularly "susceptible to oxidative stress.”
They concluded by saying more direct and controlled evidence is needed. With the world relying on mobile phones more and more, it's a question that the authors believe should be definitively answered soon. In the US, there is about one device for every person. In certain European countries such as Germany, Denmark, and Italy, there are more devices than people.