Is Your Cell Phone Affecting Your Sperm Count?

Is Your Cell Phone Affecting Your Sperm Count?

A Concerning New Study Explores the Link Between Cell Phone Use and Sperm Count

In the last 50 years, sperm count has declined by more than 50%. The question is: why?

Some scientists have theorized that it’s toxins in our food, water, or household products. Others have suggested that it’s the rise in obesity or other chronic diseases. But it’s certainly worth examining cell phone use, too — after all, these devices were just introduced 40 years ago, and have continued to play a more prominent role in our everyday lives.

According to a new study, there’s evidence that cell phones could, in fact, have an impact on sperm concentration.

RELATED: Exploring the Worldwide Trend of Dropping Sperm Counts

But how? And what can you do about it? Read on for insight into the study’s findings, plus experts’ recommendations on how to limit your exposure to risks that may impact your sperm count.

Can Your Cell Phone Cause a Low Sperm Count?

The 2023 study, which was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, looked at health and lifestyle data from roughly 3,000 college-age Swiss men who served in the military.

They found that men who used their phones more than 20 times a day had 21% lower sperm counts than men who only used them once a week or so. This means the men who used their phones more had a 30% increased risk of their sperm concentration being below what’s considered the fertile range.

“While the study suggests a link between cell phone use and lower sperm counts, it’s crucial to remember that — in science — correlation is not causation,” says Dr. Michel Bielecki, MD, a research scientist and co-founder/CEO at the fertility care platform lllumicell AI.

In other words, this doesn’t necessarily mean cell phones are causing the decrease.

“Similar studies have shown varied results, indicating how complex and multifaceted this issue is,” adds Bielecki. “Other potential biases, such as self-reported data accuracy and technological changes over time, should also be considered. So, while the findings are intriguing, they’re not conclusive enough to establish cell phones as a direct cause of lower sperm counts.”

RELATED: How Men Can Improve Their Fertility

Another interesting finding? Researchers discovered that the link between cell phone use and sperm count decreased over time — it was stronger during the first phase of the study in 2005-2007, and weaker between 2012-2018. That trajectory seems to line up with the progression from 2G to 3G and 4G technology, suggesting that the lower transmitting power of newer phones is having less of an impact on sperm count.

According to experts, there are several theories as to why cell phones may have an effect on sperm count:

  • “Cell phones generate radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF)—particularly during calls,” says Dr. Kevin Huffman, a board-certified bariatric physician as well as the CEO and founder of Ambari Nutrition. Huffman notes that some believe exposure to this radiation may cause oxidative stress — an imbalance in your body between free radicals and antioxidants, which can cause inflammation, and damage organs and tissues. “There are some animal studies that have shown high levels of RF-EMF reduce sperm count and cause detrimental changes in the testicular tissue,” says Dr. Victoria Scott, a board-certified urologist and urogynecologist.
  • Heat reduces sperm quality, says Scott — and cell phones generate quite a bit of heat. That’s another reason why some believe that cell phones could be detrimental to sperm count, particularly if you keep your device in your pants pocket. “Research exploring heat as a contraceptive method from the 1930s showed that deliberately increasing scrotal temperature could reduce fertility for months,” says Bielecki. “However, linking this effect directly to cell phones or other devices remains speculative, and more research is needed to clarify these interactions and their potential impact on reproductive health.”
  • Finally, there’s another theory that the microwaves emitted from cell phones could impact hormone regulation, says Scott. Dr. Paul Gittens, a sexual medicine physician with the Rockwell Centers for Sexual Medicine & Wellness, notes that hormonal balance is crucial for sperm production.

Other Factors That Can Affect Sperm Count

While we still don’t know just how strong the association is between cell phone use and sperm count, experts agree it’s certainly not the only factor at play.

According to Dr. Victoria Scott, a board-certified urologist and urogynecologist, it’s difficult to study sperm count on a large scale. However, she notes that scientists generally believe decreasing sperm counts are likely due to a combination of:

  • Lifestyle factors, like higher rates of stress, tobacco and marijuana use, and obesity
  • Harmful environmental exposures, like radiation, pesticides, and hormone-disrupting (endocrine-disrupting) chemicals such as PFAS and phthalates

“Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are ubiquitous,” says Dr. Graham Simpson, medical director at Opt Health. ““They are found in plastics and vinyl flooring, wall coverings, medical devices, and toys, as well as a vast array of personal products like soaps and shampoos.”

In other words, toxins are all around us — and many of them can impact our hormones, and thus, fertility.

New research has shown that even air pollution can decrease sperm count and quality.

“Ambient temperatures affect sperm count, so there is also a theory that rising global temperatures could affect sperm count,” adds Scott.

What You Can Do About It

It’s important to keep in mind, says Scott, that sperm count is extremely difficult to study. That’s because it can change from day to day, and even hour to hour. So, in order to get an accurate sample, researchers would need to study a large number of participants over a long period of time.

Still, as they say, knowledge is power. And while more studies are needed about the link between cell phone use and sperm count, there are some things experts recommend doing for the sake of your reproductive health.

“A sedentary lifestyle, in particular, is a significant concern for overall health, including reproductive health,” says Bielecki. “Regular physical activity and a balanced diet can greatly improve sperm quality. A lesser-known fact is that even mild regular physical activity can improve sperm concentration and motility.”

Given that studies have shown a possible link between air pollution and sperm count/quality, Bielecki says even choosing a less polluted route for your daily jog could have meaningful benefits.

“For men concerned about the potential impact of cell phones on sperm quality, precautionary measures can be taken,” says Dr. Laurence Levine, a board-certified urologist and Chief Medical Advisor at Promescent. “These might include reducing overall cell phone usage, and avoiding keeping the phone in close proximity to the reproductive organs, like trouser pockets, for extended periods. Utilizing hands-free devices and storing phones away from the body can also be helpful.”

It’s worth noting that the 2023 study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found a link between carrying a phone in one’s pants and lower sperm quality. However, Simpson still advises playing it safe by storing your phone in a jacket pocket or a work bag instead of a location close to your testicles. It may even be worth turning your phone off for certain periods during the day, says Gittens — say, while you’re sleeping, exercising, or at work. That’s because, as Gittens points out, cell phones emit RF-EMF even when not in use.

It’s also important to remember that RF-EMFs are not only emitted by phones but also by other devices like laptops, adds Bielecki.

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