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Mobile phone use can reduce sperm count, study shows

Mobile phone use can reduce sperm count, study shows
By Maxine Frith
June 28, 2004
Source: The Indipendent

Regular mobile phone use can reduce a man's sperm count by up to 30 per cent, a study shows. Even carrying a handset in a belt or trouser pocket can affect male fertility, it suggests.

Experts believe radiation from mobile phones has a dramatic impact on the numbers of sperm, and their swimming ability, both of which are linked to successful conception.

The study, being presented this week at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Berlin, adds to the health concerns about mobile-phone use.

Scientists called the results "interesting" but said the study raised more questions than it answered. Dr Imre Fejes, from the University of Szeged in Hungary, studied 221 men over 13 months and compared the sperm of "very active" mobile users, who carried their handset for most of the day, with those who did not own a phone.

Dr Fejes found men who carried a phone on stand-by through the day had significantly lower sperm concentration. Their counts averaged at 59 million sperm per millilitre of seminal fluid compared with 83 million for men not continually exposed to mobile phone radiation.

Motility - the power of the sperm to swim - was similarly affected by mobile phone transmissions, the study found. Men who made lengthy calls had fewer rapidly motile sperm, 36.3 per cent compared with 51.3 per cent for men who made no calls.

The research is the first to show that male fertility may be damaged by electromagnetic signals from mobile phones. Dr Fejes said: "Prolonged use of cellphones may have a negative effect on spermatogenesis and male fertility that presumably deteriorates both concentration and motility." But he admitted that further studies were necessary to confirm the results.

Experts have been unable to make firm conclusions about the safety of mobile phones because study findings have been so contradictory. The Government has adopted a "precautionary" approach, offering advice aimed at reducing the mobile-phone exposure of children. A major obstacle is that mobile phones have been in use for only 15 years, and it may take more time for long-term health effects to become apparent.

Professor Hans Evers, a leading gynaecologist from the Academic Hospital in Maastricht, the Netherlands, questioned whether the results could have been influenced by lifestyle, social background and age. "This research ... raises more questions than it answers," Professor Evers said. "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? What if they come from a different age group or social class than the non-users? These factors would have a considerable effect on the outcome of the research."

28 June 2004 15:23