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“Young Man, Is that a Cell Phone in your Pocket?”

Baudy film actress Mae West was famously quoted as asking a police officer, Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?


Today, we might substitute a cell phone for the gun, and ask a related question: Do cell phones carried in pants pockets or hooked on belts cause sperm damage?

Let’s look at the literature:

Environmental Working Group (EWG), founded in 1993, is an American environmental organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agricultural subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability.

EWG recently analyzed a number of scientific studies from around the world that suggested that cell phone radiation damages sperm. In August 2013, EWG published A Guide to Safer Cell Phone Use based on the analysis of these studies.

Research indicates that exposure to cell phone radiation may lead to:

  • Decreases in sperm count
  • Decreases in sperm motility and vitality
  • Increases in indicators of sperm damage
    • Oxidative stress (disruptions in normal mechanisms of cellular signaling)
    • DNA damage
    • Changes in sperm morphology (size and shape)

All of the studies found statistically significant correlations between cell phone radiation and sperm health, and many found that the adverse findings increased with increasing cell phone usage.

If you use a Bluetooth or other headset and tend to store your cell phone in your pants pocket or clip it to a holster on your belt while in use, your reproductive machinery may be exposed to higher than average levels of cell phone radiation. Several studies suggest that men who use their phones in this way have lower average sperm counts and/or poorer sperm quality.

The exact mechanism by which these changes occur is as yet undetermined. It’s well known that increases in the general temperature of the genital region can have an adverse effect on optimal sperm production, however, simple heating of the region of the reproductive organs has not been determined to explain the findings completely. 

More scientific studies are needed to define the actual risk to sperm from cell phone radiation. Until then, it makes sense to get your cell phone out of your pocket, off of your belt and stored in your briefcase or backpack when using it in talk mode. 


Photo credit: flickr