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Medical/biological study (experimental study)

Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic waves (RF-EMW) from cellular phones on human ejaculated semen: an in vitro pilot study.

Published in: Fertil Steril 2009; 92 (4): 1318-1325

Aim of study (acc. to author)

To study the effects of mobile phone radiofrequency electromagnetic fields during talk mode on unprocessed (neat) ejaculated human semen.
Background/further details: Semen samples from normal healthy donors (n=23) and infertile patients (n=9) were used. Semen samples were divided into two aliquots (for exposure and sham exposure). Analysis were performed between overall exposed and unexposed samples as well as separately in patient and donor samples.

Endpoint

Exposure

Exposure Parameters
Exposure 1: 850 MHz
Modulation type: pulsed
Exposure duration: continuous for 60 min
Exposure 1
Main characteristics
Frequency 850 MHz
Type
Exposure duration continuous for 60 min
Modulation
Modulation type pulsed
Additional info GSM in talk mode
Exposure setup
Exposure source
Distance between exposed object and exposure source 2.5 cm
Chamber Both samples (aliquots) were kept at room temperature.
Setup The mobile phone had a loop-shaped, omni-directional antenna on the top of its back that was kept at 2.5 cm from each sample.
Sham exposure A sham exposure was conducted.
Additional info Unexposed (control) aliquots were kept under identical conditions but without RF exposure [Oktem et al., 2005].
Parameters
Measurand Value Type Method Mass Remarks
power 1 W maximum - - -
power density 40 µW/cm² maximum measured - 1-40 µW/cm²
SAR 1.46 W/kg maximum - - -
Additional parameter details
Power density in the control condition was 0.01-0.1 µW/cm².
Measurement and calculation details
Power density was monitored during basal condition (no radiation) and experimental condition (talk mode) throughout the experiment using a field strength meter. The frequency emitted was confirmed using an RF spectrum analyzer.
Reference articles
  • Oktem F et al. (2005): Oxidative damage in the kidney induced by 900-MHz-emitted mobile phone: protection by melatonin.

Methods Endpoint/measurement parameters/methodology

Investigated material:

Main outcome of study (acc. to author)

Exposed samples showed a significant decrease in sperm motility and viability, an increase in reactive oxygen species level (in all groups: overall, normal donors, patients), and decrease in "reactive oxygen species - total antioxidant capacity" score (however, the score was not significant when comparing exposed and unexposed samples from donors and patients). Levels of total antioxidant capacity and DNA damage showed no significant differences from the unexposed group.
In conclusion, radiofrequency electromagnetic fields emitted from mobile phones may lead to oxidative stress in human semen. The authors speculate that keeping the cell phone in a trouser pocket in talk mode (e.g. while using Bluetooth) may negatively affect spermatozoa and impair male fertility. However, the cell phone and the male reproductive organs are separated by multiple tissue layers, so to extrapolate the effects seen under in vitro conditions to real-life conditions requires further studies.
Study character:

Study funded by

  • Center for Reproductive Medicine, Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio

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