Editorial: Hey Guys, do you keep your smartphone 15cm from your texticles? Not a good idea! (Women should read this too.)

Is your smartphone in you back pocket? If so, your testicles and their sperm are very close indeed to this powerful source of electromagnetic radiation.

Perhaps you think like this;

“OK. This radiation passing between my smartphone and the local cell towers and masts is designed to pass through stone, cement, wood, plastic and glass – through floors and ceilings – through outer and inner walls of houses, factories, office blocks, mosques, synagogues, cathedrals, schools and hospitals, but it is harmless to sperm.

“The radiation might have ever-increasing penetrability as the gadgets become more sophisticated and powerful but there is no way it could damage the cell structures, enzymes, and DNA in my spermatozoa. No way.”

Dare I suggest this thinking is a triumph of optimism over rationality, of foolishness over caution, of blind hope over science? Of course there is damage!

Here are some extracts from a recent Guardian article by Nicola Davis, ‘Shocking’ decline found in sperm count of western men (dated 26/7/17):

Sperm counts among men have more than halved in the past 40 years, research suggests, although scientists admit the causes of the decline remain unclear.

Between 1973 and 2011, the concentration of sperm in the ejaculate of men in western countries has fallen by an average of 1.4% a year, leading to an overall drop of just over 52%.

“The results are quite shocking,” said Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist and lead author of the study from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction Update by an international team, drew on 185 studies between 1973 and 2011 involving almost 43,000 men. The team split the data based on whether the men were from western countries – including Australia and New Zealand as well as North America and Europe – or from elsewhere.

By contrast, no such trends were seen for men in other countries – though the authors note that far fewer studies have been carried out among such populations.

Levine agreed that research into potential causes was needed. Numerous possibilities have been offered, with research suggesting links to body weight, a lack of physical activity, smoking, and exposure of pregnant women to chemicals found in myriad household products, known as endocrine disruptors.

Of course, electromagnetic radiation is not listed as a possible cause. If this were mooted by any brave soul it would be very quickly suppressed by the telecoms industry (who need sales), governments (who needs telecoms money) and the bodies that award research grants. So the cause of this drop in male fertility, over a period coinciding with the dramatic rise of ‘electrosmog’ in the West, remains a ‘mystery’.

Some women might notice the attempt reported in the Guardian article to lay the blame for damage to men’s sperm at the feet of women who do too much housework.

Some women might take the danger to the sperm of the likely father of their next child from his smartphone very seriously and, in the spirit of wise caution, try to open a discussion with him. There is danger here: some of these women will learn the comparative value their man puts on (a) his smartphone and (b) her next pregnancy.

So, what is the science reporting damage to sperm?

Paper 1

The effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation on sperm function

B J Houston1, B Nixon1, B V King2, G N De Iuliis1,* and R J Aitken1,* 1 Priority Research Centre for Reproductive Science, School of Environmental and Life Sciences and 2 School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia Correspondence should be addressed to B J Houston; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  *(G N De Iuliis and R J Aitken contributed equally to this work).


Mobile phone usage has become an integral part of our lives. However, the effects of the radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) emitted by these devices on biological systems and specifically the reproductive systems are currently under active debate. A fundamental hindrance to the current debate is that there is no clear mechanism of how such non-ionising radiation influences biological systems. Therefore, we explored the documented impacts of RF-EMR on the male reproductive system and considered any common observations that could provide insights on a potential mechanism.

Among a total of 27 studies investigating the effects of RF-EMR on the male reproductive system, negative consequences of exposure were reported in 21. Within these 21 studies, 11 of the 15 that investigated sperm motility reported significant declines, 7 of 7 that measured the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) documented elevated levels and 4 of 5 studies that probed for DNA damage highlighted increased damage due to RF-EMR exposure. Associated with this, RF-EMR treatment reduced the antioxidant levels in 6 of 6 studies that discussed this phenomenon, whereas consequences of RF-EMR were successfully ameliorated with the supplementation of antioxidants in all 3 studies that carried out these experiments. In light of this, we envisage a two-step mechanism whereby RF-EMR is able to induce mitochondrial dysfunction leading to elevated ROS production.

A continued focus on research, which aims to shed light on the biological effects of RF-EMR, will allow us to test and assess this proposed mechanism in a variety of cell types.

© 2016 Society for Reproduction and Fertility DOI:10.1530/REP-16-0126 ISSN 1470–1626 (paper) 1741–7899 (online) Online version via www.reproduction-online.org  Reproduction (2016) 152 R263–R276

Paper 2

For the next paper I am offering only the introduction and reference list. Please get in touch if you want the whole paper.

The Evidence connecting Mobile Phone EMF Exposure and Male Infertility

Paper from EM Radiation Trust, Powerwatch and Electromagnetic Man by Brian Stein (RRT and EM Man) and Alasdair Philips (Powerwatch), 22 August 2011


Data from around the world indicate that about 35% of women and 45% of men are sub-fertile (about 7% of women and men are effectively infertile) [1,2]. Though most men believe infertility is due to “female issues”, the truth is that male infertility plays a role in about 50% of cases of failing to conceive after one year.

Sperm counts in men worldwide have declined by half over the past 50 years and are continuing to fall, according to a number of studies. A 2011 Finnish study of the sperm counts of 858 young men in three birth-year cohorts from the 1970s to the 1980s concluded: “These simultaneous and rapidly occurring adverse trends suggest that the underlying causes are environmental and, as such, preventable.” The decrease could be due to environmental chemicals affecting early testicular development and/or to the increased EMF exposure from cell phones. Lifestyle factors are likely to be having a significant impact. The more recently a male was born then the lower their sperm count is likely to be when they reach 20 [3]

What affects sperm and male fertility?

It is well established that smoking and drinking, drugs (medicinal and recreational), hormone-affecting chemicals in our food and environment, and increasing testicular temperature can adversely affect sperm count.

There is also growing evidence that electromagnetic fields (EMF) from cell phones can impair male fertility. If the observed association between cell phone EMF exposure and reduced sperm counts proves to be causal, then the dramatic increase in mobile phone use, especially by young people, over the last two decades could be the major factor.

A recent (July 2011) peer-review published scientific paper over-view of the scientific literature concluded [4]: “The use of mobile phones is now widespread. A great debate is going on about the possible damage that the radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) emitted by mobile phones exerts on different organs and apparatuses. In human beings, two different experimental approaches have been followed, one has explored the effects of RF-EMR directly on spermatozoa and the other has evaluated the sperm parameters in men using or not mobile phones.

The results show that human spermatozoa exposed to RF-EMR have decreased motility, morphometric abnormalities, and increased oxidative stress, whereas men using mobile phones have decreased sperm concentration, motility (particularly the rapid progressive one), normal morphology, and viability. These abnormalities seem to be directly related with the length of mobile phone use.


1. Brugh VM, Lipshultz LI 2004. Male factor infertility: evaluation and management. Med. Clin. North Am. 88 (2): 367–85. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15049583   

2. Hirsh A, 2003. Male subfertility. BMJ 327 (7416): 669–72. doi:10.1136/bmj.327.7416.669. PMC 196399. PMID 14500443.    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14500443 

3. Jørgensen N et al 2011. Recent adverse trends in semen quality and testis cancer incidence among Finnish men. Int J Androl. 2011 Mar 2.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21366607

4. La Vignera S, Condorelli RA, Vicari E, et al. 2011. Effects of the Exposure to Mobile Phones on Male Reproduction: A Review of the Literature. J Androl. 2011 Jul 28. [Epub ahead of print] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21799142

5. De Iuliis GN et al 2009 – Mobile phone radiation induces reactive oxygen species production and DNA damage in human spermatozoa in vitro PloS One 4(7):e6446 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19649291

6. Whittow WG et al, Indicative SAR Levels due to an active Mobile Phone in a Front Trouser Pocket in Proximity to Common Metallic Objects, Dept.E&E Engineering, Loughborough University,Leicestershire,UK. 2008 Loughborough Antennas & Propagation Conference 17-18 March 2008.  Released under Creative Commons licence. https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/dspace-jspui/bitstream/2134/3340/1/04516888.pdf

7. Vu TA and Nguyen UD, - Evaluation of Human Testis Absorption in the Near Field of Cellular Phone. IEEE conference paper.  DOI:10.1109/ICCE.2010.5670642

8. Dasdag S, et al. 1999 – Whole-body microwave exposure emitted by cellular phones and testicular function of rats.    Urol Res. 1999 Jun;27(3):219-23.    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10422825

9. Falzone N et al 2010a – The effect of pulsed 900-MHz GSM mobile phone radiation on the acrosome reaction, head morphometry and and zona binding of human spermatozoa Int J Androl Mar 7 [Epub ahead of print] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20236367

10. Erogul O et al 2006 - Effects of electromagnetic radiation from a cellular phone on human sperm motility: an in vitro study Arch Med Research 2006 Oct;37(7):840-3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16971222

11. Mailankot M et al 2009 - Radio frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) from GSM (0.9/1.8GHz) mobile phones induces oxidative stress and reduces sperm motility in rats Clinics (Sao Paulo) 64(6):561-5   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19578660

12. Aitken RJ et al 2005 – Impact of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation on DNA integrity in the male germline Int J Androl 28(3): 171-9 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15910543

13. Sommer AM, et al, 2009.  Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (UMTS) on reproduction and development of mice: a multi-generation study. Radiat Res. 2009 Jan;171(1):89-95.          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19138054 

14. Agarwal A, et al, 2008. Effect of cell phone usage on semen analysis in men attending infertility clinic: an observational study, Fertil Steril. 2008 Jan; 89(1):124-128.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17482179

15. Agarwal A, et al, 2009. Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic waves (RF-EMW) from cellular phones on human ejaculated semen: an in vitro pilot study. Fertil Steril. 2009 Oct; 92(4):1318-25. Epub 2008 Sep 20.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ 18804757

16. Wdowiak A, et al, 2007. Evaluation of the effect of using mobile phones on male fertility, Ann Agric Environ Med. 2007;14(1):169-72   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17655195

17. Gutschi T, et al, 2011. Impact of cell phone use on men's semen parameters. Andrologia. 2011 Mar 28. E-pub ahead of print. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21486411


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