Fertility is a sensitive topic. That’s why researchers have been running tests for years to find out whether mobile communications have any effect on sperm, egg cells or embryos. There is no proof of this – and leading health organisations are giving the all-clear – because strict limits are applied to protect health.
“Don’t stick your mobile in your trouser pocket. You want to have kids, don’t you?” Plenty of concerned mothers may well have by now said something similar to their sons. But is there any foundation for such concern? Researchers have been tackling this issue for years:
The current situation as regards studies on this topic is complex. For a better unterstanding, a few principles need to be clarified. Radiation caused by mobile networks is one of many possible types of radiation – and radiation surrounds us in the environment quite naturally. When we speak about radiation caused by mobile networks or electromagnetic fields (EMFs), we are invariably referring to what is known as non-ionising radiation. Further information about the different types of radiation can be found here.
There is only one scientifically proven effect of radiation caused by mobile networks to date: the human body absorbs it and converts it into heat. Effects on human health are unlikely and are not be expected below the applicable limits. Any potential damage would require the temperature of the body to have risen by considerably more than 1 degree Celsius. This is why Germany has strict limits that rule out this possibility.
Some research projects have looked into the effects of radiation from mobile phones on human fertility as well as on embryos in the womb and their later development. There have in particular been national and international studies investigating the effect of radio frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) on the fertility of men. Some of the studies observed a change in respect of fertility. However, at the same time they indicated that further research was necessary. As regards the nature of the uncertainty, some studies observed decreased fertility among frequent mobile phone users, but it remained unclear whether this was caused by the mobile itself. A generally unhealthy lifestyle on the part of the test subjects could also be the reason.
In addition, laboratory studies show that negative effects on male fertility appeared under certain conditions – namely when the electromagnetic fields exceeded the established limits. This led to a significant rise in tissue temperature. And sperm are highly sensitive to temperature. However, this kind of exposure does not occur during everyday use of mobiles. Even if a mobile phone is transmitting from a trouser pocket, the exposure of the testicles remains far below the limits.
It should also be noted that many of the studies conducted to date did not meet the usual scientific criteria. To learn about the specific problems, please read on. Investigations proceeding in accordance with confirmed scientific practice have not been able to establish any connection between electromagnetic fields and decreased fertility. Organisations such as the WHO, the British Health Protection Agency and the German Commission on Radiological Protection have all therefore come to the same conclusion: there is no proof to date that radiation caused by mobile networks has any effect upon fertility.
There is also no reason for expectant mothers to be concerned: there is no evidence that radiation caused by mobile networks has any adverse influence on the unborn child or its later development. Some research programmes advise pregnant women, as a precaution, to be careful when dealing with mobile phones. However, in its recommendations concerning EMFs, the WHO does not establish any negative effect upon embryonic development and therefore does not recommend any precautionary measures.
In the assessment of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), the majority of laboratory studies on the effects on fertility and unborn children exhibit methodological deficiencies.
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