The quality of the male sperm is supposed to decrease for years now. Already in 1992, Carlsen and his colleagues asserted this due to the evidence they found for a decreasing sperm count and volumes of ejaculation over the previous 50 years. A study for New Zealand men verified similar results last year.
Others counter: It’s all not that bad… Those who consider rather methodological problems responsible for the supposedly dwindling manhood and even talk about a myth. Sperm crisis? What crisis?
And while this controversy about sperm counts and –volumes continues evidences mount that oxidative stress from mobile transmission devices threaten the little baby-makers – namely when the cell phone is carried around in the pants pocket or on the belt. In the middle of the decade, a Hungarian study caused a riot. It was published in 2005 but was already introduced during the congress of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in 2004. Back then the Hungarian researcher Imre Fejes had examined 451 men and interviewed them about their cell phone using habits. Fejes was particularly interested in the sperm count and their motility. He was able to show: The longer the test persons carried their turned-on cell phones around attached on or around the belt, the more the number of sperms decreased.
According to the “Welt“ (newspaper in Germany), the former ESHRE president Prof. Dr. Hans Evers commented the results with the following words: “Perhaps cell phone users in Hungary have a particularly stressful life or they come from a different social class than the ‘non-cell phone users’.”
Sperms suffer from oxygen stress
Here the reference to stress is basically right. But most likely this stress does not bother the “cell phone on the belt carriers“, but their sperm. Two studies point in this direction, both published in the last few weeks. In Australia, 22 healthy young men, average age 24.1 years, donated their sperm for the sciences. Researchers exposed their prepared and cleaned sperm to an electromagnetic radiation with a frequency of 1.8 GHz and specific absorption rates of 0.4 W/kg to 27.5 W/kg over night. Afterwards the sperm showed a significant reduction of motility and vitality. On the other hand, the mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species – oxygen-containing molecules like super-oxides and peroxides which are very instable and highly reactive, increased. They are capable of damaging cells by oxidative stress. In addition, the number of DNA nicks increased significantly under the electromagnetic exposure.
This result is supported by similar findings in the USA. There 23 healthy and nine infertile men gave their very best. The sperm was separated and one portion each was exposed for one hour to an electromagnetic radiation complying with the one radiated from a cell phone in standby-mode. The second portion was for control purposes. Here as well, under radiation the reactive oxygen species increased while the sperm motility and vitality decreased.
How far off the testicles should the cell phone be?
The Australian authors of the study appear to be alarmed by the results of their studies. They fear that especially the high rate of DNA nicks in the sperm might have negative consequences for the health of the children if their fathers frequently carried their cell phone in the pants pocket or on the belt during the time of conception. They strongly advise men against carrying their cell phone anywhere near the beltline or even worse – below. The Americans take that less dramatic. They have realized correctly that their in-vitro study can be transferred only partly to the “real world”. Usually there are several layers of cloths between cell phone and testicles. Further studies are now supposed to clear what protection the cloths actually provide. Whether the mobile communication center inside a man’s pocket and the little toddler in his arms exclude each other – the future will have to tell.