Most people regularly use Bluetooth technology on a weekly, if not daily basis. This short-range wireless technology enables the simple transfer of data between mobile phones, laptops, and an array of other electronic devices. However, there is a mounting body of evidence that suggests this technology may be harming fertility, especially the sperm in men.
In 2009, a study published in the Fertility and Sterility journal documented the effects of RF-EMW (radiofrequency electromagnetic waves) emitted from mobile phones on semen1. Researchers from Ohio conducted this in vitro pilot study to evaluate key sperm parameters (viability and mobility) and assess any DNA damage as a result of exposure to RF-EMW.
The relatively small sample size consisted of semen samples from nine infertile patients and twenty-three healthy donors. Agarwal and colleagues divided the samples into two groups, one exposed to RF-EMW for one hour, and the other control sample unexposed.
The samples exposed to mobile phone radiation showed a statistically significant reduction in sperm viability and motility. Mean viability for unexposed and exposed samples was 58.97 ± 14.81% and 52.33 ± 13.21% respectively, while mean motility for unexposed and exposed samples was 52.11 ± 18.34% and 48.62 ± 17.36% respectively. Furthermore, there was also evidence of DNA damage with an increase in oxidative stress and a decline in antioxidant activity associated with the semen samples exposed to RF-EMW.
Although the sample size in this American-based study was very small, the results confirmed what many scientists have hypothesised. The semen samples exposed to an 850 MHz frequency mobile phone in talk mode were placed 2.5 cm away from the electrical device. This is comparable with the typical distance between a trouser pocket and the testes. Whether storing a mobile phone further away from the testes will decrease sperm damage is yet to be determined.
The results obtained by Agarwal and colleagues have been supported in other similar studies. In 2011, Gutschi and colleagues published findings on their research into the impact of mobile phone use on semen2. During this study, 2110 semen samples from men attending a fertility clinic between 1993 and 2007 were assessed and mobile phone use recorded. There was a significant variation in sperm morphology between men that used mobile phones and those that didn’t.
Men that frequently used mobile phones had a much lower concentration of luteinising hormone compared with those men who didn’t use these devices. This hormone is essential for reproduction. Sperm morphology was also significantly different between the two study groups. The semen of mobile phone users showed pathological morphology in 68% of samples, compared with 58.1% of non-mobile phone users. Although this study was not as detailed or specific as that conducted by Agarwal and colleagues, it’s still clear that mobile phone use does have a significant impact on spermatozoa.
While more research is necessary, men should pay attention to these findings and try to use Bluetooth devices sparingly, or at the very least, keep them at a reasonable distance away from the testes.
- Agarwal A, Desai NR, Makker K, Varghese A, Mouradi R, Sabanegh E, Sharma R. Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic waves (RF-EMW) from cellular phones on human ejaculated semen: an in vitro pilot study. Fertility and Sterility. 2009. 92(4): 1318-25 ↩
- Gutschi T, Mohamad Al-Ali B, Shamloul R, Pummer K, Trummer H. Impact of cell phone use on men’s semen parameters. Andrologia. 2011. 43(5): 312-6 ↩