Here’s a scary topic for us guys out there….becoming infertile. As you all (I hope) know, being infertile means not being able to produce children from your semen. But here’s a common myth that I was told a lot as a teenager by my Grandmother: using your cell phone too much will make you infertile. Now I always just chalked this up to being just another story Grandma told me to make sure I was a good kid and not using my phone too often, but what if it wasn’t? Could using your iPhone too often cause you to not be able to have kids? Does the radioactivity vented out of your phone cause you damage? This is the question I want to answer.
As always, first we should look at this from a scientific perspective and form a hypothesis. The null hypothesis, which is what most of us believe, is that cell phones will not cause male infertility. The alternate hypothesis lines more up with my grandma’s viewpoint, that a prolonged period of cell phone use causes males to become infertile. Obviously, we cannot experiment with this on humans, as you can’t just ethically let men get cancer if the data supports it. More likely, we’ll have to either experiment with animals and/or observe cell phone use with men. Finally, we want to measure the independent variable (the phone/mobile device) and the dependent variable (becoming infertile).
Background: After searching, I came across a study conducted in India in 2010 on male Wistar rats. They aimed to look for lower sperm counts, the weight of testicular organs, and destruction of Leydig cells in rats after an extended period of time around a mobile phone.
Before we get into what they found, I want to talk briefly about another study they used as background info by Agarwal in 2007 on 361 men at infertility clinics. This was an observational study and concluded that the use of cell phone by decreasing sperm cells’ motility, morphology, and even sperm counts. This shows that, indeed, cell phone use does affect male infertility. However, it’s incredibly possible that there were other factors that the researchers weren’t able to control, given it being an observational study. Therefore, we need to look at the study in India on rats to get an idea if, given everything else is controlled, we can see the correlation between cell phone use and infertility.
The Procedure: As mentioned above, this was an experimental study done in India on rats. These rats were split in half, with 6 being the control and 6 being experimented on. This was done randomly and was repeated multiple times to make it blind. After the groups were sorted, the rats to be experimented on were put in an air conditioned room where they were all put with a single mobile device. They were exposed for 35 straight days, where they were then euthanized in order to be tested. This is a very straightforward experiment, with a control group and a randomized blind trial. Now, let’s move on to the results.
The Results: Quite surprisingly, the results seem to support the alternate hypothesis. In the 35 days exposed to the mobile device, the rats had a significant decline in sperm cell counts. The counts were reduced from over 160 to only 70 counts of sperm, showing a 50% decrease. This is significant, as this supported the observational study mentioned earlier that there is a big correlation between mobile phone use and a decrease in sperm count. So, although this could be just due to chance, we have to conclude that the alternate hypothesis was overwhelmingly supported here. This is huge, as men of my age are significantly attached to our phones, and are the first generation to have cell phones from around 12 years old onwards almost 24 hours a day. Will we see a decrease
This is huge, as men of my age are significantly attached to our phones, and are the first generation to have cell phones from around 12 years old onwards almost 24 hours a day. Will we see a decrease in the ability to have children in our generation over the last? We’ll have to wait around 5-10 years to find the data to support that, but for now, I’m going to be worried about the results. As it turns out, sometimes Grandma is right!