LONDON (TIP): Radiation emitting from mobile phones kept in trouser pockets has now been confirmed to be causing male infertility. British scientists announced on Tuesday that men who keep a mobile phone in their trouser pocket could be inadvertently damaging their chances of becoming a father, thanks to radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RFEMR) emitted by the devices. Most of the global adult population own mobile phones, and around 14% of couples in high and middle income countries have difficulty conceiving.
Dr Fiona Mathews at the University of Exeter conducted a systematic review of the findings from 10 studies, including 1,492 samples, with the aim of clarifying the potential role of this environmental exposure. Participants in the studies were from fertility clinics and research centres, and sperm quality was measured in three different ways: motility (the ability of sperm to move properly towards an egg), viability (the proportion of sperm that were alive) and concentration (the number of sperm per unit of semen).
In control groups, 50-85% of sperm have normal movement. The researchers found this proportion fell by an average of 8 percentage points when there was exposure to mobile phones. Similar effects were seen for sperm viability. The effects on sperm concentration were less clear. Dr Mathews said, “Given the enormous scale of mobile phone use around the world, the potential role of this environmental exposure needs to be clarified.
This study strongly suggests that being exposed to radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation from carrying mobiles in trouser pockets negatively affects sperm quality. This could be particularly important for men already on the borderline of infertility, and further research is required to determine the full clinical implications for the general population.” The results were consistent across in vitro studies conducted under controlled conditions and observational in vivo studies conducted on men in the general population.
India’s Inter Ministerial Group recently made some salient recommendations about mobile handsets. The group proposed revising the limit of 2 watts per kilogram averaged over 10 grams tissue to 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over 1 gram tissue. It also called for mandatory declaration of radiation level on each mobile handset. As far as mobile towers are concerned they recommended radiation norms which are ten times as strict as the existing ones- from f/200 watts per square meter to f/2000 watts per square meter.
The group said mobile towers should not be installed near high density residential areas, schools, playgrounds and hospitals. “The localized specific absorption rate (SAR) value as per the Indian guidelines is 2 watt per kg, averaged over a six minute period and using a 10 gram average mass.With higher SAR — a measure of the amount of radiofrequency energy absorbed by the body while using a phone of mobile handsets — the public could potentially receive much higher radiofrequency exposure.We have recommended that SAR levels to be lowered to 1.6 watt/kg, as prescribed by the Federal Communication Commission of US,” Indian experts said.
Girish Kumar, professor in department of electrical engineering at IIT Bombay, whose research on hazards of cellphone use was taken as a reference for the committee decision, said, “There is a 40% increase in the risk of brain cancer among teenagers using cell phones for long periods. The younger the child, the deeper is the penetration of electromagnetic radiation as children’s skulls are thinner”. Another Jawaharlal Nehru University study found that the exposure to radiation from mobile towers and cell phones could have an adverse impact on male fertility and pose health hazards by depleting the defence mechanism of cells.