Does cell phone radiation affect men’s fertility?

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Cell phone use – and exposure to radiofrequency radiation – can harm male fertility, according to a new study.

The study, by Korean scientists, concludes that cell phone use is linked to lower overall sperm quality – its motility, viability and concentration. And it’s worse for men with “high” cell usage.

Roughly one in 10 men in the U.S. is infertile.

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What is cell phone radiation?

Cell phones emit radiofrequency radiation – a type of electromagnetic waves that studies show is linked to brain and salivary gland tumors, behavioral problems in children and neurological problems. Earlier research has shown that very high exposure to radiofrequency radiation can damage eyeballs and testicles.

EWG has highlighted concerns about cell phone usage and health harms before, conducting a review of existing research literature through 2012. Ten years ago, researchers were looking at sperm quality relative to whether study participants used a cell phone or not.

Back then, just 35 percent of American adults used a cell phone but usage has exploded in the past decade. Nearly 72 percent of Americans were estimated to use a smart phone in 2021, and 97 percent own some type of cell phone.

EWG research found unambiguous statements in 10 studies about the changes to sperm caused by cell phone radiation. A scientific review published by University of Exeter researchers in 2014 documented studies showing that men who kept their phone in a pocket or at their waist had lower sperm motility and viability than those who did not.

Analyze this: Meta-review results

The Korean scientists’ new study is an important update to our review.

Their new meta-analysis integrated findings from 18 peer-reviewed studies, including about 4,000 sperm samples. The study was published in November in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research.

The new study examines the impact of the duration of cell phone use on sperm quality – a more accurate reflection of how prevalent cell phone use is today.

The authors concede the new study is not perfect. One limitation is the complicating variables introduced by lifestyle factors, such as smoking, excess weight, alcohol consumption and the use of tight underwear that might also harm sperm quality.

Another limitation is that the meta-analysis included research that combined the effects of cell phone use and other sources of exposure to radiofrequency radiation, like wireless internet and Wi-Fi use, so it is difficult to determine the effects precisely. The conclusion that exposure to cell phone radiation poses a risk to men’s reproductive health is valid nonetheless.

Much more research is needed, the authors caution, as more people own cell phones, and new mobile phones are released. And any new study should include data focusing on smartphone exposure in particular.

The impact of cell phones on male fertility is likely to grow as more people become regular users of smartphones, from an earlier age and for longer duration. Long-term cell phone use “is a factor that must be considered as a cause of sperm quality reduction,” the researchers conclude.

What can you do?

We need stronger standards to protect everyone and especially children from harmful cell phone radiation. EWG research has recommended new radiofrequency radiation exposure standards for both children and adults as a revision to very outdated standards from the Federal Communications Commission. EWG children’s standard is the first of its kind.

Join EWG in calling on the FCC to update its woefully outdated wireless radiation rules.

Take action on cellphone radiation!

Cutting-edge research by EWG has revealed that federal regulations on cellphone radiation are woefully outdated and unsafe!

Use the form below to add your name to EWG's petition calling on the FCC to protect our health from radiofrequency radiation.

For now, boys and men should make every effort to protect their sperm quality by minimizing their cell phone use and avoiding carrying their phone in their pocket.

For other ways to avoid exposure as much as possible, consult “EWG’s Guide to Safer Cell Phone Use.”

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