October 1, 2009

Can the Effects of Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Waves From Cell Phones Impair Male Fertility?


Agarwal A, Desai NR, Makker K, et al. Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic waves (RF-EMW) from cellular phones on human ejaculated semen: an in vitro pilot study. Fertil Steril. 2009;92(4):1318-1325.


In vitro pilot study


Thirty-two: semen samples from normal healthy donors (n=23) and infertile patients (n=9)

Study Parameters Assessed

Evaluation of sperm parameters (motility, viability), reactive oxygen species (ROS), total antioxidant capacity (TAC) of semen, ROS-TAC score, and sperm DNA damage 

Key Findings

Samples exposed to radiofrequency electromagnetic waves (RF-EMW) showed a significant decrease in sperm motility and viability, an increase in ROS level, and a decrease in ROS-TAC score. Levels of TAC and DNA damage showed no significant differences from the unexposed group. RF-EMW emitted from cell phones may lead to oxidative stress in human semen. We speculate that keeping the cell phone in a trouser pocket in talk mode may negatively affect spermatozoa and impair male fertility.

Practice Implications

A steady decline in sperm density and semen health has been occurring since the 1930s—way prior to the advent of cellular phones. RF-EMW from cellular phones is potentially 1 of the many contributors that affect at least 50% of men trying to reproduce. Endocrine disrupters (xenoestrogens), lifestyle practices, malnutrition, endocrine imbalances, and environmental factors all have to be considered when evaluating an infertile male patient. This cited published article, along with other peer-reviewed articles, has elucidated the deleterious effects of talk-mode cellular phone waves on semen vitality beyond mere association but rather via cause and effect.1 At this point, it seems prudent for naturopathic physicians and other integrative practitioners to counsel infertile men (diagnosed with semen analysis) to limit the use of cellular phone in talk mode (using bluetooth devices) while phones are in their pockets or clipped to their belts. A more precautionary approach would be encourage these patients to limit carrying phones not in talk mode but not turned off in close proximity to the testicles (in pockets or clipped to belts). Phones that are powered on but not in talk mode still emit some level of RF-EMW that may theoretically increase ROS activity and decrease motility of sperm cells. Further studies confirming the later scenario is necessary, however.


This study was limited by the fact that it is a pilot study—a small number of participants and nonrandomized to a group of RF EMW‒unexposed men (the in vitro samples of semen were controlled.) However, a robust controlled trial, enrolling a pool of such controls in today’s culture is extremely difficult. Lastly, the phone and the male reproductive organs are separated by multiple tissue layers, so to extrapolate the effects seen in vitro to “real-life” conditions requires further studies, which are currently under way.

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  1. Falzone N, Huyser C, Fourie F, Toivo T, Leszczynski D, Franken D. In vitro effect of pulsed 900 MHz GSM radiation on mitochondrial membrane potential and motility of human spermatozoa. Bioelectromagnetics. 2008;29(4):268-276.