Technion : a clear link between cell phone use and impaired sperm quality of the user

Professor Martha Dirnfeld, Technion Professor Martha Dirnfeld, Technion

A study conducted at the Technion and Carmel Medical Center reveals a clear link between cell phone use and impaired sperm quality of the user. Men who talk on their cell phone for more than an hour a day double the risk of impairing their sperm concentration; Speaking while charging the phone and carrying it near the groin may also cause similar damage.

Male sperm quality, which is steadily declining in Western countries, accounts for 40% of infertility problems among couples. Accumulated research knowledge on this subject shows that sperm quality is affected by congenital genetic factors but also by environmental variables. One of them is the growing use of cell phones.

Many studies on the question of the connection between sperm quality and the radiation emitted by cell phones reached different and non-uniform conclusions, since they were carried out under different conditions (laboratory experiments on tissue, experiments in laboratory animals, etc.) and did not always address all the relevant variables.

This connection was recently examined in a comprehensive and in-depth study carried out at Carmel Medical Center and The Technion Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine. The study was carried out as part of the doctoral work of Dr. Yulia Sheinfeld from the Technion Faculty of Medicine, under the guidance of Clinical Associate Professor Martha Dirnfeld, Director of the Fertility and IVF unit at Carmel Medical Center and a Clinical Associate Professor at the Technion.

The study addressed a wide range of variables related to cell phone usage habits and sperm quality according to the parameters set by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2010. The study population consisted of 106 men who underwent evaluation at the Fertility and IVF unit in 2011-12. The participants filled out detailed questionnaires including demographic characteristics and data, medical conditions that may affect sperm quality, and highly detailed and comprehensive questions about their cell phone usage: how much time the user spends on the phone each day, where he carries the phone, whether he makes or receives calls in areas with poor reception and while charging his phone, and so on. At the end of the data collection process, the researchers examined the connection between the independent variables (phone usage habits) and the sperm quality results.

The study results indicate clear causal connections: talking on a cell phone for over an hour a day, and talking on the phone when it is connected to a charger, double (from 33.3% to 66.7%) the likelihood of a decrease in sperm concentration.  Sperm concentration also decreased to an abnormal level in men who carried the phone at a distance of less than 50 cm from the groin; an abnormal concentration was found in 47.1% of them, compared with just 11.1% in the total male population.

Dr. Ariel Silberlicht, a gynecologist at Carmel Medical Center and a faculty member at the Technion Faculty of Medicine, sums up the data:
“In light of the research findings it is certainly recommended to shorten the duration of calls, not to carry the phone near the groin, not to sleep next to it, not to talk while it is being charged (in fact, it is better to turn it off while it is being charged) and to use a headset or hands-free kit whenever possible.” The researchers stress that further studies are needed, with large samples, in order to check the cellular radiation damage in the context of male infertility.

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