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My iPhone & My Fertility: A Love Story

by Sean Croxton

I love my iPhone.

She’s takes such good care of me.

She tells me when I have an appointment. Keeps me from getting lost. Plays my favorite songs. And she lets me kick some major butt in Words with Friends.

I seldom leave home without her. You can say we’re attached at the hip.


Over the last day or two, my iPhone and I have grown distant. I’m not sure if I can trust her anymore. I even cheated on her today. I left her zipped away in my backpack while I used my landline. Twice.

Yes, I have a landline.

While knowing how much my baby oozes with love and tenderness, I’ve also been well aware of the fact that she emits quite a bit of radiation.

No woman is perfect, I guess.

Maybe it all began when I heard Dr. Oz on a local radio program stating that he would not allow his kids to have cell phones. Quite a statement for a man with such strong commercial ties.

But if there is something I know for sure, it is that the following statements from Dr. Devra Davis’ book Disconnect: The Truth about Cell Phone Radiation have me keeping my love at arm’s length:

1. Did you know that most cell phones come with a notice that says, “do not hold closer than one inch from your body”?

2. Did you know that insurance companies refuse to provide coverage to cell phone companies and operators in case of claims of health damage from long-term operation of their devices?

Is my cellular love a black widow at heart?

I thought I was playing it safe. I won’t even talk on my iPhone if I have to hold it up to my ear. This is partially out of sheer laziness, but I’d also rather not hold a device pouring out radiation at the rate of two billion cycles per second right up to my brain. I lost enough brain cells in college! So instead, I use my earbuds and chat away with my phone stowed safely away in my pocket. So I thought.

Today, as I prepared for Thursday night’s UW Radio show with the author of Disconnect, my relationship was dealt a major blow.

This one was below the belt.

Turns out my pocket may not be the best place for my iPhone. I may be saving my brain, but I’m hurting “my guys”. You know, my little soldiers. Mom’s grandkids. My Olympic swim team. Or as my buddy Mike calls them: my seeds.

Turns out that there are multiple studies from multiple nations showing that men who keep their cell phones turned on in their pockets for hours a day have fewer sperm with more deformities. (Davis, 138) In fact, upon the advent of the radar, sailors would use the new technology for more than detecting German fighter planes. They used radar as birth control! Standing in front of high frequencies of electromagnetic radiation just seemed like a better idea than having a baby mama (and baby) overseas.

The electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) don’t necessarily kill sperm. Rather, they hamper their swimming skills. With each ejaculation (skeet!), up to a half billion swimmers blast off at a starting speed of ten miles per hour with a common target, a waiting egg. Some get lost or run out of steam. Others die at sea. But as you know, baby-making only requires one sperm to reach its final destination. The best swimmer wins.

It looks something like this:

According to Davis, “if the sperm were the size of a human, a successful one would need to stay on course and swim from Los Angeles to Hawaii to arrive at its target”.

I want Michael Phelps sperm. But if I had to guess, a lot of my guys are on the injured list. And we’re a few men short.

Of research conducted by Ashok Agarwal, esteemed andrologist and director of the Andrology Laboratory and Reproductive Tissue Bank, Davis writes “men with the lowest sperm count were significantly more likely to keep their phones on their bodies all the time, usually in their pockets. By all measures, men who used no cell phones had far more healthy sperm than those who used a phone two or four or more hours a day, and those who reported using a phone for four hours or more had the lowest and sickliest sperm.”

Another of Agarwal’s studies showed that sperm exposed to the highest levels of cell phone radiation had the most deformities and the worst swimming abilities.

Before you call me a quack and accuse me of reporting merely one scientist’s findings, Agarwal is not alone.

In Australia, Laureate Professor John Aitken’s analysis of human male germ cells showed that after a little more than a day of exposure to cell phone radiation, sperm become sluggish swimmers. (Davis, 142)

In Hungary, researchers at the prestigious University of Szeged found that men who used cell phones the most had the slowest- and worst–swimming sperm. (Davis, 143).

At a Polish fertility clinic, men reporting the highest use of cell phones had the lowest and sickest sperm. (Davis, 143)

In Turkey, researchers have found impaired movement in human sperm exposed to cell-phone-type radiation. (Davis, 143)

Sounds like The Pill for men.

But before all the guys start freaking out, I must do the responsible thing and say that despite the above findings, there is no conclusive research proving that cell phone radiation impairs male fertility.

Yeah, she may be crippling my guys and potentially damaging my brain, but I’m not breaking up with my iPhone just yet. I’d miss her too much and I have zero sense of direction. Instead, I’ll keep her out of my pocket and away from my noodle. I’m sure she’ll understand. The last thing she’d ever want to do is hurt me.

Tune in tomorrow for another raw cooking (how’s that for an oxymoron?) video with Melissa and me. Then, on Thursday, I’ll introduce you to a guy named SAM.

And of course, don’t miss UW Radio Thursday night with Disconnect author Dr. Devra Davis. I have a feeling she’ll be dropping lots of truth bombs on us.

The cell phone industry’s radar is about to light up.




16 thoughts on “My iPhone & My Fertility: A Love Story

  1. Ryan

    I read the same thing in 4-hour body by Tim Ferris. Significantly lower sperm health from cell phone in the pocket.
    I use the iPhone earbuds (although sound quality sucks)..

  2. John

    I know so many guys who carry their cellphones in their pockets every minute of every day… even sleep with their cellphones in their pockets .. Yet also had unplanned pregnancies… So before their is any conclusive research done on this, the subject should be discussed with an open mind

  3. Jon Ham

    ya… I keep my cell phone in my pocket all day long. Got the Wifey pregnant on the first try though. Guess my swimmers are mini Phelps’!
    Good thing to keep in mind though, especially for increased risk of brain cancer. Bluetooth in the car is a good idea for multiple reasons!

  4. Allen

    I always use speakerphone or bluetooth, mainly for safety and ease of use. I am never sitting still and I can’t stand having one of my hands tied up. I don’t like talking on the phone, but when I do I’m usually cleaning, cooking, etc.

    Sean, any word on bluetooth?

  5. Brooke Lorren

    Do you know if iPods and iPads are just as dangerous, or are they less dangerous because they only are online when there’s a WiFi connection, and you never hold them up to your head? I’ve never gotten into the whole cell phone thing. I have one… somewhere… but it’s prepaid and I only use it on rare occasions. I spend about $20 a year to keep it, LOL.

  6. UW Sean Post author

    In Dr. Davis’ book she says that low-frequency bluetooths are fine. Just keep the phone device away from your body and also do not leave the bluetooth on your ear when not using it.

  7. UW Sean Post author

    I’m going to ask Dr. Davis that very question when she comes on the show. Was wondering about that myself as well as laptops and cordless phones.

  8. Archie Robertson

    Sean, don’t feel you have to keep your iPhone at arm’s length! She doesn’t deserve that kind of treatment; she’s an innocent victim of scaremongering.

    The principle of microwave heating was discovered when a chocolate bar in a technician’s pocket melted when he walked in front of an active radar array. From this observation, the microwave oven was subsequently developed. But of course, it’s more dangerous to try to repeat this experiment nowadays; the power of a modern radar antenna can be a megawatt, and you can be cooked this way.

    This is, of course, half a million times the maximum power output of a mobile phone (2 W). There may be some heating effect — a tiny fraction of the 2 W, since most of that small amount of power is used for (gasp) sending, detecting, decoding and amplifying radio signals.

    One way of reducing male fertility is to raise the temperature of the testes (guess why they hang outside the body cavity? Yes, it’s cooler!). And that explains the sailors avoiding unwanted pregnancies by standing in front of the radar (remember, several tens of kilowatts even back in the early days). They could have achieved a similar effect by wearing tight woollen underpants, and one of the standard questions in male fertility clinics is “What kind of underwear do you prefer?”, with a recommendation to change to loose boxers, or none at all, if there is a problem.

    Experiments showing effects on sperm have often not been done with real phones (much too expensive) but with signal generators, acting directly on the unshielded swimmers. In a human body, there’s quite a lot of bone and flesh (remember, water absorbs microwaves), and not many men carry their phones inside their underwear…

    As for cellular and genetic effects, we need to remember that DNA can be damaged only by IONISING radiation. That is radiation of high energy (or short wavelength): gamma rays, X-rays, and ultraviolet. Visible light, infra-red, microwaves and radio waves are all too low in energy to break chemical bonds, and thus cause cellular damage.

    So what effect does non-ionising radiation have? It warms things up. And how much can a 2 W mobile phone warm a body (which is itself giving out over 100 W of heat even when asleep). When a head is exposed to sunshine, it can absorb about another 450 W of heat, and the only side effect is sweating.

    As for these so-called “controlled studies”, studies will often show exactly what the researchers are looking for. We’ve seen precisely this effect over and over again with diet!

    Oh, and by the way, my BSc was in physics (not undifferentiated “science studies”).

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