Archives of Medical Research 37 (2006) 840e843
Effects of Electromagnetic Radiation from a Cellular Phone on
Human Sperm Motility: An In Vitro Study
Osman Erogul,a Emin Oztas,b Ibrahim Yildirim,c Tayfun Kir,d Emin Aydur,c Gokhan Komesli,c
Hasan Cem Irkilata,c Mehmet Kemal Irmak,b and Ahmet Fuat Pekerc
aBiomedical and Clinical Engineering Centre, bDepartment of Medical Histology and Embryology, cDepartment of Urology,
dDepartment of Public Health, Gulhane Military Medical Academy, Etlik, Ankara, Turkey
Received for publication September 20, 2005; accepted May 9, 2006 (ARCMED-D-05-00379).
Background. There has been growing public concern on the effects of electromagnetic
radiation (EMR) emitted by cellular phones on human health. Many studies have recently
been published on this topic. However, possible consequences of the cellular phone usage
on human sperm parameters have not been investigated adequately.
Methods. A total number of 27 males were enrolled in the study. The semen sample ob-
tained from each participant was divided equally into two parts. One of the specimens
was exposed to EMR emitted by an activated 900 MHz cellular phone, whereas the other
was not. The concentration and motility of the specimens were compared to analyze the
effects of EMR. Assessment of sperm movement in all specimens was performed using
four criteria: (A) rapid progressive, (B) slow progressive, (C) nonprogressive, (D) no
Results. Statistically signiﬁcant changes were observed in the rapid progressive, slow
progressive and no-motility categories of sperm movement. EMR exposure caused a sub-
tle decrease in the rapid progressive and slow progressive sperm movement. It also caused
an increase in the no-motility category of sperm movement. There was no statistically
signiﬁcant difference in the sperm concentration between two groups.
Conclusions. These data suggest that EMR emitted by cellular phone inﬂuences human
sperm motility. In addition to these acute adverse effects of EMR on sperm motility, long-
term EMR exposure may lead to behavioral or structural changes of the male germ cell.
These effects may be observed later in life, and they are to be investigated more
seriously. Ó 2006 IMSS. Published by Elsevier Inc.
Key Words: Mobile phone, Cellular, Electromagnetic ﬁeld, Human, Sperm, Motility.
Radiofrequency (RF) energy is a type of nonionizing ra-
diation, including EMR produced by cellular phone, and is
Use of cellular phones has increased exponentially and be-
not strong enough to cause ionization of atoms and mole-
come an important part of everyday life throughout the
cules. Cellular phones emit low levels of RF in the micro-
world. A growing concern for their possible adverse effects
wave range while being used. Although high levels of RF
on human health evokes a ﬂurry of scientiﬁc activity to
can produce health effects (by heating tissue), exposure to
evaluate this dilemma. Despite the increasing number of re-
low-level RF may not produce heating effects and causes
ports on the effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) in
no known adverse health effects. Several experimental stud-
various biological systems, no satisfactory mechanism has
ies demonstrated that exposure to electromagnetic or static
been proposed to explain the effects of this radiation (1).
magnetic ﬁelds had adverse effects on the reproductive
system (2e10). However, it is likely that these effects were
due to heating.
Address reprint requests to: Emin Oztas, MD, Associate Professor, De-
Recent epidemiological studies investigated the possible
partment of Medical Histology and Embryology, Gulhane Military Medical
Academy, Etlik, Ankara, 06018, Turkey; E-mail: email@example.com
effects that EMR have comparing cell phone use and sperm
0188-4409/06 $esee front matter. Copyright Ó 2006 IMSS. Published by Elsevier Inc.
Cellular Phone and Human Sperm Motility
quality of the individuals. Kilgallon et al. suggested that af-
Triaxial Magnetic Meter, Model 4090 (Bell Technology,
ter other lifestyle variables had been accounted for, storage
Orlando, FL). Basal and experimental levels of the environ-
of cellular phones close to the testes had a signiﬁcant neg-
mental EMRs in the rooms were measured at the center of
ative impact on sperm concentration and percentage of mo-
the working board of clean benches and on the stages of mi-
tile sperm (11). Another important study performed by
croscopes. EMR measurements of the experimental envi-
Fejes et al. suggested the effects of EMR radiated by cellu-
ronment are shown in Table 1. The clean benches in the
lar phones using in vivo experiments (12). It was the ﬁrst
semen analysis laboratory and EMR exposure room are
human study performed on 371 healthy males. This study
made out of marble. In the EMR exposure room, there
concluded that prolonged use of cellular phones might have
are no other metal or ferromagnetic materials around the
negative effects on sperm motility characteristics. The other
clean benches that would change the structure of the elec-
important study performed by Sun et al. investigated the ef-
tromagnetic ﬁeld. The use of any EMR-emitting device
fects of EMR emitted by computers on human sperm qual-
(such as an extra cellular phone, centrifuge, ﬂuorescent
ity and did not ﬁnd any adverse effects (13). However,
light ballasts, and computers) was not allowed so that the
epidemiologic studies might have many uncontrolled fac-
EMR generated by this equipment would not interfere with
tors in the environment of these studies, which may reduce
the experimental environment.
the reproducibility of their results.
In this study, we used an in vitro model in order to inves-
Exposing Semen Samples to Electromagnetic Radiation
tigate the possible adverse effects of nonionizing radiation
on semen parameters. Using this methodology, we can stan-
The method for exposing semen samples to EMR was es-
dardize the process and obtain reproducible results. We be-
tablished by modiﬁcation of the technique described by
lieve that the results of our in vitro tests may complement
Makler et al. (15). The collected semen samples for both
the in vivo studies.
groups were rested for 25 min without any intervention.
At the end of the 25-min waiting period, the groups are sep-
arated from each other isolating the control group far from
the source of the EMR. The EMR-exposure group speci-
Materials and Methods
mens were taken to the exposure room and then exposed
to the EMR emitted by a commercially available cellular
telephone, GSM 900 type (900 MHz, 2 W peak power, av-
Study population was composed of healthy male volunteer
erage power density 0.02 mW/cm2). The distance between
individuals. Forty eight volunteering participants attending
the phone and specimen was 10 cm, and the duration of the
the urology clinic were tested for the existence of any ab-
exposure was 5 min (16).
normal situations including hormonal status and infections
by routine blood and urine tests within the normal range of
Gulhane Military Medical Academy. Subjects had no his-
tory of genitourinary abnormality or surgery. Donors were
Assessments of semen analysis were performed at the end
included if they had conventional sperm parameters within
of the 30-min period (25 min for liquefaction and 5 min
the normal range deﬁned by World Health Organization
for the EMR exposure or control) for both specimen groups
(WHO) (1999) (14). Semen samples from 27 males (mean
(14). Sperm parameters of the two groups were analyzed at
age 27 6 3.2, range: 19e33) who satisﬁed these criteria
the same time to reduce time-dependent motility variations
were used in our experimental study. Samples were col-
by using phase-contrast microscopes (Nikon, Alphaphot-2,
lected from the participants following the abstinence of
YS-2, Tokyo, Japan) with phase objectives (Â20 magniﬁca-
ejaculation for a minimum of 48 h and no longer than 7
tion). Semen analyses were performed by two experienced
days before collection. All specimens were obtained by
and blinded observers. Semen samples were double
masturbation without using condom. Clean, wide-mouthed
checked by the observers to reduce interobserver variations.
polypropylene containers (Sigma, St. Louis, MO) without
Concentration and motility were evaluated through a Makler
residual chemicals were used for specimen collection, and
counting chamber (Seﬁ-Medical Instrument, Haifa, Israel).
specimens were kept at room temperature in the laboratory.
WHO criteria (four categories of sperm movement; A-rapid
The semen sample obtained from each participant was di-
progressive, B-slow progressive, C-nonprogressive and D-
vided equally into two parts: control group (group 1) and
no motility) were used in the assessment of sperm move-
EMR-exposed group (group 2).
Environmental conditions were monitored in the semen
All results are given as mean 6 SD. Sperm concentration
analysis laboratory and the EMR exposure room throughout
and motility of exposure and control groups were compared
the study. All EMR measurements were performed using
by Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test. SPSS for Windows
Erogul et al./ Archives of Medical Research 37 (2006) 840e843
Table 1. Intensity of EMRs at experimental environment
EMR value (mT)
Cell phone standbya
Cell phone workinga
Semen analysis room
On clean benches
On clean benches
EMR, electromagnetic radiation; mT: microTesla.
aCell phone is in the exposure room.
bEMR level produced by the cellular phone stays approximately constant during ringing and speaking.
(version 11.0, Windows, SPSS, Chicago, IL) was used for
Aitken et al. exposed mice to 900 MHz EMR for 7 days,
statistical analysis; p !0.05 was considered statistically
12 h/day to investigate the effects of EMR on sperm
DNA (17). This study claimed that there is no increase in
the single- or double-strand DNA breaks as a result of
EMR exposure. However, the same study revealed that
EMR exposure caused signiﬁcant damage to both the mito-
Qualitative differences between the movement categories of
chondrial genome and the nuclear b-globin locus caused by
the control and the EMR exposure groups are summarized
EMR exposure. These trends suggest that recent concerns
in Table 2. We noted signiﬁcant differences in percentages
over long-term exposure to electromagnetic irradiation
of rapid progressive, slow progressive, and no-motility cat-
emitted by mobile phones should be taken more seriously,
egories of sperm movement. No signiﬁcant differences
given the growing trend for deterioration in the male germ
were seen in nonprogressive motility between the two
line (18). Nonionizing radiation may cause hazardous
groups. Mean percentages of rapid progressive and slow
effects by changing cellular molecules that lead to changes
progressive categories of sperm movement were higher in
of cellular behaviors (reversibly or irreversibly). These
the control group. On the other hand, nonprogressive motil-
changes may be passed to the next generation. This can be
ity category of sperm movement was higher in the EMR
explained by the possible role of increased oxidative stress
exposure group. There was no statistically signiﬁcant differ-
mediators (19) or some receptors such as seen in Merkel
ence in the sperm concentration between the two groups.
cells that can detect the EMR, show an exocytotic activity,
There are more subjects with higher percentages of rapid
and discharge its granules that lead the changes (20).
progressive and slow progressive categories of sperm
In this study we investigate the effects of electromag-
movement in the control group than the EMR exposure
netic radiation emitted by a typical cellular phone (900
group. However, the EMR exposure group has more sub-
MHz type) on sperm parameters. Semen collected from
jects with higher percentages of nonprogressive motility
the participants was divided into two parts. Control group
or no-motility categories of sperm movement compared
was kept at the laboratory where no EMR source exists.
to the control group.
EMR exposure group was taken to another room and ex-
posed to low-level nonionizing radiation generated by an
activated cellular phone at a distance of 10 cm for 5 min.
The 10-cm distance was accepted as physiologically rea-
Available scientiﬁc evidence associates changes in semen
sonable limits for the individuals by measuring a high-dose
quality with cellular phone usage. There are two important
radiation (70e140 mT) at ringing and speaking mode with
in vivo human studies in the literature about cellular phone
the close touch position of cellular phone to the semen sam-
usage and semen parameters. One suggests that lifestyle
ples. Also, distance longer than 10 cm was not effective as
can inﬂuence semen quality. According to this study, the
measuring low-level (1e2 mT at 30 cm) EMR around the
storage of mobile phones close to the testes can decrease
semen samples. Five-min exposure time was used as de-
semen quality (11). Another study claimed that the pro-
scribed by Panagopoulos et al. in their study about the
longed use of cell phones may have negative effects on
effects 900-MHz cellular phone radiation on the reproduc-
sperm motility characteristics (12).
tive capacity of Drosophila melanogaster during gonad de-
Radio waves of cellular phones do not have enough
velopment (16). The electromagnetic ﬁeld applied to semen
energy to cause ionization of atoms and molecules. Most
samples was about 20e70 times higher than the ambient
DNA damage results from cellular phone EMR appear
EMR at the semen analysis laboratory where control group
at the process of spermatogenesis and sperm maturation.
specimens were kept (see Table 1).
Cellular Phone and Human Sperm Motility
Table 2. Seminal ﬁndings in nonexposed and exposed groups
Group 1 (not exposed to EMR)
Group 2 (exposed to EMR)
Movement categories (%)
Mean 6 SD
Mean 6 SD
Rapid progressive (A)
13.6 6 10.2
9.1 6 7.9
Slow progressive (B)
43.7 6 19.4
33.9 6 20.6
6.0 6 2.6
6.4 6 3.0
No motility (D)
35.9 6 2.6
50.6 6 22.7
Sperm concentration (Â106 mLÀ1)
59.8 6 35.3
57.9 6 37.6
EMR, electromagnetic radiation.
Our study controlled for semen analysis methodology.
5. Chernoff N, Rogers JM, Kavet R. A review of the literature on poten-
Our observers were trained to analyze semen samples using
tial reproductive and developmental toxicity of electric and magnetic
ﬁelds. Toxicology 1992;74:91
standardized protocols based on WHO guidelines. Our ob-
6. Furuya H, Aikawa H, Hagino T, Yoshida T, Sakabe K. Flow cytomet-
servers were also standardized by an internal quality control
ric analysis of the effects of 50 Hz magnetic ﬁelds on mouse spermato-
system for the semen analysis, although they may have used
genesis. Nippon Eiseigaku Zasshi 1998;53:420e425.
minimally different semen analysis techniques. The tech-
7. De Vita R, Cavallo D, Raganella L, Eleuteri P, Grollino MG, Calugi A.
nique for the motility assessment outlined in the WHO
Effects of 50 Hz magnetic ﬁelds on mouse spermatogenesis monitored
by ﬂow cytometric analysis. Bioelectromagnetics 1995;16:330
guidelines is not a strictly quantiﬁable one, and it is possi-
8. Ramadan LA, Abd-Allah AR, Aly HA, Saad-el-Din AA. Testicular
ble that if a computer-assisted sperm analysis system had
toxicity effects of magnetic ﬁeld exposure and prophylactic role of
been used to assess motility, we may have found more pre-
coenzyme Q10 and L-carnitine in mice. Pharmacol Res 2002;46:
cise sperm counts due to the reduced intra- and/or interob-
9. Tablado L, Perez-Sanchez F, Nunez J, Nunez M, Soler C. Effects of
exposure to static magnetic ﬁelds on the morphology and morphome-
In vitro studies may play an important role when in vivo
try of mouse epididymal sperm. Bioelectromagnetics 1998;19:
studies are weak or not deﬁnitive. Our in vitro study has
a supporting or clarifying role on human studies. This study
10. Crumpton MJ, Collins AR. Are environmental electromagnetic ﬁelds
complements the work of Kilgallon and Simmons and Fejes
genotoxic? DNA Repair 2004;3:1385e1387.
et al. and conﬁrms their results (11,12). Our in vitro method
11. Kilgallon SJ, Simmons LW. Image content inﬂuences men’s semen
quality. Biol Lett 2005;1:253
has a controllable environment and minimizes the uncon-
12. Fejes I, Zavacki Z, Szollosi J, Koloszar S, Daru J, Kovacs L, Pal A. Is
trolled subjective results of the in vivo tests.
there a relationship between cell phone use and semen quality? Arch
In our study, exposure to EMR led to a signiﬁcant
decrease in sperm motility. Results of the semen analysis
13. Sun YL, Zhou WJ, Wu JQ, Gao ES. Does exposure to computers
between the control and the EMR exposure group showed
affect the routine parameters of semen quality? Asian J Androl 2005;
statistically signiﬁcant changes in sperm motility in the
14. World Health Organization. WHO Laboratory Manual for the Exami-
progressive, slow progressive, and no-motility categories
nation of Human Semen and Sperm-Cervical Mucus Interaction. Cam-
of sperm movement. Since all environmental factors, except
bridge, England: Cambridge University Press;1999.
the exposed EMR levels, were the same for the control and
15. Makler A, Tatcher M, Vilensky A, Brandes JM. Factors affecting
EMR exposure groups, we believe that the change in sperm
sperm motility. III. Inﬂuence of visible light and other electromagnetic
radiations on human sperm velocity and survival. Fertil Steril 1980;33:
motility between these groups was caused by the EMR
produced by the cellular phone.
16. Panagopoulos DJ, Karabarbounis A, Margaritis LH. Effect of GSM
900-MHz mobile phone radiation on the reproductive capacity of Dro-
sophila melanogaster. Electromagn Biol Med 2004;23:29e43.
17. Aitken RJ, Bennetts LE, Sawyer D, Wiklendt AM, King BV. Impact of
1. Feychting M, Ahlbom A, Kheifets L. EMF and health. Annu Rev
radio frequency electromagnetic radiation on DNA integrity in the
Public Health 2005;26:165e189.
male germline. Int J Androl 2005;28:171e179.
2. Galaktionova GV, Mastriukova VM, Strzhizhovskii AD. Sensitivity of
18. Aitken RJ, Koopman P, Lewis SEM. Seeds of concern. Nature 2004;
mammalian tissues to prolonged exposure to high-tension permanent
magnetic ﬁelds. Kosm Biol Aviakosm Med 1985;19:78e81.
19. Irmak MK, Fadillioglu E, Gulec M, Erdogan H, Yagmurca M,
3. Soeradi O, Tadjudin MK. Congenital abnormalities in the off-spring of
Akyol O. Effects of electromagnetic radiation from a cellular tele-
rats after exposure of the testes to an electrostatic ﬁeld. Int J Androl
phone on the oxidant and antioxidant levels in rabbits. Cell Biochem
4. Kokoreva LV, Chuvpilo TA, Pustynnikova AM. The effect of a constant
20. Irmak MK, Oztas E, Yagmurca M, Fadillioglu E, Bakir B. Effects
high intensity magnetic ﬁeld on the reproductive function on male rats.
of electromagnetic radiation from a cellular telephone on epidermal
Kosm Biol Aviakosm Med 1990;24:28e30.
Merkel cells. J Cutan Pathol 2003;30:135e138.
- Effects of Electromagnetic Radiation from a Cellular Phone on Human Sperm Motility: An In Vitro Study
- Materials and Methods
- Semen Samples
- Environmental Conditions
- Exposing Semen Samples to Electromagnetic Radiation
- Semen Analysis
- Statistical Analysis