Cell Phones Are Not Reliable Contraception!

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Good old MSNBC is reporting a story today that heavy cell phone usage leads to lowered sperm counts in men. Before you throw them out the window there are some serious flaws with the study. They report: “In a study of 361 men seen at their infertility clinic, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found an association between the patients’ cell phone use and their sperm quality.”

On average, the more hours the men spent on their cell phones each day, the lower their sperm count and the greater their percentage of abnormal sperm.

The study comes out of the Cleveland Clinic from a fertility group I know very well and was published in Fertility and Sterility. MSNBC is not correct that this is the first such study, there are in fact two others previously.

The authors write on the general risks of cell phone use that they “operate between 400 MHz and 2000 MHz frequency bands and emit radiofrequency electromagnetic waves (EMW). Reports of potential adverse effects of radiofrequency EMW on brain, heart, endocrine system, and DNA of humans and animals are widely reported in the literature.” If routine use has clear clinical risks remains unclear.

What the study shows: Cell phone users groups showed a decrease in sperm count, motility,viability, and normal morphology with the increase in daily use of cell phones.

Their Overall Results Data:

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Why You Should Not Worry Yet: There are some significant problems with the study. First the differences seen may not be clinically relevant nor even lead to infertility. Second they relied on self-reporting of past usage of cell phones (hey bud – thanks for the sperm specimen- can you tell me how many minutes you used last month?). third, cell phones drastically differ in the radiation they emit so it does not make sense that the effect would not be brand specific. Also thanks to the inverse square law the radiation from the phone falls off by hte square of the distance to the organ. I do not know about you but when I speak on my cell phone I tend to keep my testicles a bit far from the phone.

The Biggest problem: The association does not mean causation. We have known for years that very prolonged sitting in a hot car, obesity, smoking, and possibly stress can adversely affect sperm numbers and function. I guarantee you that the guys talking on their cell phones for 4-6 hours a day are more likely in the car, yelling at the driver next to them with a cigarette hanging in the mouth and a big mac on the seat next to them then calmly doing yoga while sipping vitamin water and eating a salad.

Studies in animals have not shown any direct toxic effects.

Quote of the Day: In reviewing the limitations of the animal studies I would have guessed it was really hard to get the rats to talk on their cell phones for 4-6 hours a day. They are such busy little animals scurrying about looking for food all the time and their paws are so little to hold a blackberry. The authors however point out: “it is impractical to compare a rat model to humans because of its small testicular size, nonpendulous scrotum, and the fact that its testis can migrate.” No need to say any more…

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