16 November 2016
Mobile Link to Reduced Male Fertility: Study
by Sam Varghese, itwire.com, 16 November 2016
Scientists at the University of Newcastle have found that a majority of studies looking for possible negative effects of mobile phone use on the male reproductive system have indicated that there could be truth to such claims.
Twenty-one of 27 studies looked at by the researchers showed that mobile phone use was associated with reduced sperm motility. Seven out of seven that measured production of reactive oxygen species showed elevated levels.
And four of five studies that examined DNA damage showed increased damage due to exposure to the radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) emitted by mobile devices.
"In general, these data lend support to the notion that RF-EMR can significantly impair key aspects of sperm function including the motility and vitality of these cells and the integrity of their DNA," the scientists said in their 14-page article which has been published in Reproduction, the journal of the Society for Reproduction and Fertility. The report was published online in September and will be in print next month.
This suggested "a direct effect on mature spermatozoa. However, there is less compelling evidence to suggest an additional role at the level of spermatogenesis in reducing sperm counts", they said.
In one of the earliest studies on the impact of RF-EMR on sperm quality, the scientists wrote that it had been demonstrated that males who used mobile phones exhibited
increased rates of abnormal sperm morphology and decreased motility compared with their counterparts who did not use these devices.
These effects were exacerbated with longer exposure to this form of radiation. And since this report, additional studies had replicated the adverse impact of RF-EMR on human sperm motility using a device that could emit finely tuned electromagnetic radiation to mimic that emitted by mobile phones, they wrote.
The radiation emitted by mobiles seemed to primarily affect the ability of sperm to maintain their speed when moving forward.
While other studies had not shown such effects, the scientists said that such findings should be considered in view of the experimental conditions: in the former case, isolated human sperm were subject to radiation of the kind that was emitted by mobiles, while in the latter whole-body animal exposure was involved with a signal generator producing the RF-EMR.
They said that notwithstanding conflicting data, recent meta-analyses had concluded that RF-EMR would both significantly reduce the motility of sperm and also cause a loss of viability.
Responding to this study, the mobile phone lobby group, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association said in its recent newsletter that "experts worldwide have disputed the validity of previous reviews because the original studies are considered weak and inconclusive".
It quoted from the January 2015 report of the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Emerging Newly Identified Health Risks which concluded: "The overall assessment found no indication of an effect of RF fields on reproduction and development."
This panel was also quoted as saying: "Studies on male fertility are of poor quality and provide little evidence."
AMTA also took recourse to a 2014 review of studies into male fertility that had also reported lower sperm motility and viability for men carrying a mobile phone in their trouser pocket.
It said this study was criticised by reproductive health experts in the UK. Professor Richard Sharpe of the University of Edinburgh was quoted as saying: "I don't see increased mobile phone use as a ready explanation for lower sperm counts in men; indeed, if sperm counts have fallen, then they did so long before mobile phone use became extensive.
"This paper has taken a number of much smaller papers and grouped them together. However, the quality of data that has been pooled is flawed," Neil McClure, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Queen’s University Belfast, was quoted as saying by AMTA.
A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.