A recent study has raised concerns about the potential effects of smartphone usage on the sperm quality of young men.
Researchers at the University of Geneva conducted this study, analyzing data from 2,886 Swiss men aged 18 to 22, recruited between 2005 and 2018 at six military conscription centers across the country.
The study involved participants completing a detailed questionnaire covering various aspects of their lifestyle habits, general health, and, notably, smartphone usage patterns, including where they kept their phones when not in use.
Serge Nef, co-director of the study and professor in the Department of Genetic Medicine and Development at the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine and at the SCAHT – Swiss Centre for Applied Human Toxicology, emphasized the importance of this data.
The findings indicated a notable difference in sperm concentration between those who used their phones infrequently (less than once a week) and those who used them frequently (over 20 times a day).
Specifically, the group of men who rarely used their phones exhibited higher sperm concentration (56.5 million per milliliter) compared to the frequent users (44.5 million per milliliter), reflecting a 21 percent decrease in sperm concentration among heavy phone users.
Furthermore, the data suggested that the decline in sperm quality was more significant during the initial study period (2005-2007) compared to later periods (2008-2011 and 2012-2018).
Researchers attributed this trend to the shift from 2G to 3G, and subsequently, from 3G to 4G networks, which resulted in reduced phone transmission power.
The hypothesis underlying this study is that electromagnetic radiation emitted by smartphones could be influencing sperm quality, particularly as many people carry their phones close to their groin in trouser pockets.
However, it’s important to note that this link is not definitively established. Rita Rahban, the lead study author, pointed out that the number of participants who reported not keeping their phone close to their bodies was too small to draw a strong conclusion on this specific point.
There are alternative factors that could explain the observed decline in sperm fitness, including environmental pollutants from everyday products. Some scientists have suggested that substances like phthalates and PFAS, found in plastics and waterproofing materials, might contribute to this issue.
Independent experts commenting on the research commended its methodology but cautioned against making definitive conclusions. The study shows an association between mobile phone use and sperm quality but does not establish a causal link.
Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology at the University of Manchester, emphasized that it remains uncertain whether mobile phones are a direct cause or merely a surrogate marker for other aspects of men’s lifestyles or occupations that influence sperm quality.
In summary, while the study highlights a potential association between smartphone use and sperm quality in young men, it is essential to approach these findings with caution, as more research is needed to establish a clear cause-and-effect relationship.