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Does the use of mobile phones affect male fertility?
- The question whether high-frequency electromagnetic fields, such as occur, e.g., during mobile phone calls, affect male fertility has been the subject of numerous national and international studies.
- An overall evaluation of the studies shows that - as long as the existing limits and standards are adhered to - there is no scientific proof of harmful influence of high-frequency electromagnetic fields on testes and sperm cells, neither in humans, nor in animals, nor in sperm cells in vitro.
- Many animal and laboratory studies indicate negative impacts arising from oxidative stress, among other things. Most of these studies are characterised by poor quality and do not permit a sound evaluation. This is the reason why international scientific panels recommend further research.
No evidence of harmful influence of high-frequency fields on testes and sperm cells
Heavy users of mobile phones
Reduced fertility has been observed in heavy users of mobile phones. This, however, is presumably attributable to other factors relating to lifestyle and not to electromagnetic fields of mobile phones. These other factors have not been further investigated as part of existing studies.
Animal studies have yielded contradictory results even below the limits which is primarily a result of the poor quality of the studies. Variations in individual physiological parameters have been observed. Oxidative stress has often been suggested as a possible mechanism of action. However, a comparison between individual studies shows that findings have not been consistent. There have been changes in both directions - improvement, deterioration or even no changes, for example, in sperm count or viability. Different parameters varied across different studies while others remained unchanged. On the whole, the values stayed within the normal physiological range. These findings cannot be taken as evidence of the negative influence of electromagnetic fields on fertility. Those few studies that have met the standards of good scientific practice with respect to exposure, blinding, number of investigated animals and statistical evaluation, predominantly showed no influence on fertility below the limits.
As many of the outlined observations in animals have yet to be clarified, the WHO recommends further animal studies on the influence of high-frequency electromagnetic fields on reproductive organs in its Research Agenda 2010, but not with high priority.
Sperm in vitro
Some investigations showed biological effects such as decreased motility in sperm exposed in vitro to field strengths clearly above the existing restrictions for mobile phones. These effects result from heating. Exposures this high do not occur in everyday life. Even when a mobile phone is transmitting in the user's trouser pocket, his testes are exposed to electromagnetic fields far below the limits and a heating effect can be excluded.
The German Mobile Telecommunication Research Programme (DMF) found no harmful influence of high-frequency fields on fertility and development
Male and female laboratory rodents were investigated for long-term effects under the influence of mobile radio fields over several generations. The investigations using whole body exposures with SAR values ranging from 0.08 to 1.3 watts per kilogram found no influence on reproduction and development.
The Federal Office for Radiation Protection evaluated the scientific literature about the effects of high-frequency electromagnetic fields on male fertility in a review in 2014. It is available for download (in German language).
State of 2018.04.30