Cellular phones are ubiquitous, but despite their convenience, they may not be good for our health. Especially fertility.
Something like 80% of the world's population has cell phones (as of 2010). That's amazing because they haven't been around that long, but the infrastructure has made the use of cell phones easier to introduce than traditional land lines. And the portability makes it much easier to multi-task! I can listen to a teleconference while I do my grocery shopping. I get so much more done today than I used to.
But is it at an unacceptable price? While some researchers were talking about cell phones and their radiation years ago, it has now reached the point of being generally accepted that this is a potential health problem. What exactly is the problem?
Let's talk about radio frequencies first. Most of us are familiar with AM and FM radio. They operate on different bandwidths, AM being amplitude modulation, and FM being frequency modulation. Radio waves look like a child's drawing of mountains with peaks and valleys. With AM radio waves, the peaks and valleys vary, while with FM radio, the peaks and valleys are the same but the distance between them varies.
AM radio frequencies are at a lower radio wave than FM frequencies. That's important because it affects how far they travel. AM radio waves naturally bend with the ionosphere around the earth, so they seem to travel further. FM radio waves penetrate the atmosphere and keep on going, so they seem to travel a shorter distance (at least on your radio they do).
Radio waves, then, are a form of radiation, although not at a frequency that hurts us. Microwaves are a higher frequency, and as you move on up in frequency, you get to UV light, x-rays, and ultimately gamma rays (nuclear radiation).
Cell phones also operate on radio waves at a much higher frequency than AM and FM radio, called ultra high frequency (still lower than UV light). The reason is that, like radio stations, you can't overlap the coverage area with the same assigned frequency, and at higher frequencies, more signals can be carried in a smaller area--more people can use their phones.
Cell phones work wirelessly, that much is obvious. There are two major types of cell phone networks: CDMA and GSM. While engineers will argue the pros and cons of the two technnologies, GSM emits more constant radiation than CDMA, so you ought to pick your cell phone network by the technology it uses.
So how does this impact our health? Because it is radiation that can penetrate our bodies. It's not like an x-ray bombarding your body, but it's radiation exposure that adds up over time and causes damage to your DNA. And, of course, the most fragile DNA in us is in our reproductive cells, especially sperm.
Already we have heard how cell phone use can increase brain tumors. Now there is concern for our fertility--especially men. In animal studies, cell phone exposure led to higher rates of sperm death compared to unexposed rats.
Perhaps cell phones are also detrimental for women's fertility, but with the testes being so much closer to the skin and the tendency of men to carry cell phones in their pockets, it appears that men are at greater risk, especially teenagers.
If you're hoping for conception, encourage your husband or partner to put his cell phone in his briefcase instead. And look for a cell phone carrier that uses CDMA technology to limit the exposure to your family--and any developing babies!