Is Your Cell Phone Sabotaging Your Sperm?

If you keep it in your pocket, that might be the case.

Elegant businessman placing his smartphone in the pocket

Image courtesy of Corbis.

Hoping to father children someday? Then it might be time to reconsider where and how you carry your phone. Researchers from the UK and Brazil recently concluded that the common practice of stashing a cell phone in your pants pockets may damage your sperm.

Published in the journal Environment International, the new report, titled "Effect of mobile telephones on sperm quality: A systematic review and meta-analysis," dug into the findings of 10 studies conducted between 2000 and 2012. Taken together, the research looked at the sperm health of 1,492 male subjects (which was "collected" at fertility clinics and research centers).

Three essential factors of sperm quality were examined: motility (the ability of sperm to make the swim correctly toward an egg); viability (how many are actually alive to make the swim); and concentration (how many are found in one milliliter of semen).

The big findings? Phone radiation had negative impacts on sperm motility and viability, but its effect on concentration was unclear.

Before you smash your phone and run to the woods to live off the grid, keep in mind that "negatively impacted" doesn't mean sperm wipeout. The researchers found cell-phone radiation exposure resulted in an 8 percent drop in motility and a 9 percent drop in viability. While not nothing, those numbers don't seem too worrying to the average male. "Sub-fertile men," according to researchers, may have more legitimate concerns.

The research actually brings to mind another study, from 2011, that aroused alarm about possible negative effects on sperm quality from another radiation source: WiFi on a laptop. But that study, it was found, largely overstated the dangers, leading to undue worry.

Still, if you know you're challenged in the little swimmers department—or just anguished about the possibility—go get yourself a man bag. One thing you should not do is buy a radiation-blocking shield for your phone; the Federal Trade Commission says they're bogus.

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