Calls for Concern? Exploring the Impact of Cell Phone Radiation on our Reproductive Organs

By: Allison Warren  |  September 22, 2023

By Allison Warren, Social Media Manager

People and their cell phones are attached at the hip, quite literally. With people storing their phones in their pockets throughout the day, their reproductive organs undergo frequent exposure to the radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) their phones produce. Those studying radiation face the task of determining whether these levels of radiation are safe or damaging, or possibly even as damaging as promoting cancer. When using a cellular phone, the surface of one’s body can absorb the electromagnetic radiation, leading to both thermal and non-thermal stress. Non-thermal stress is known for being the cause of “oxidative stress, production of free radicals, structural changes in plasma membrane, changes in ionic transport, and also increased DNA damage” (D’Silva et al., 2017). Researchers have indicated, “that cell cycle stimulation following exposure to low-frequency electromagnetic fields might promote carcinogenesis” (Kesari, Kumar, and Behari, 2011). As of 2011, the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer, classified these fields of radiation “as possibly carcinogenic to humans on the basis of an increased risk for brain glioma” (Merhi, 2012). This news led to the encouragement of using “hands-free kits,” in the hopes it would lower the brain’s exposure to the radiation. However, the use of headphones and texting only lead to the potential of greater exposure to one’s reproductive organs (Merhi, 2012). The question becomes if this level of exposure causes damage to sperm, ovaries, and embryos, and if so, at what levels and how to use our devices wisely.


A study conducted using rabbits, sought out to investigate the effects of electromagnetic radiation emitted by a mobile phone on the testicular function and structure of the rabbit. Rabbits placed in the experimental group had their testes exposed to a phone for eight hours each day, which is roughly the same amount of time a man may keep his phone in his pocket during the day. Each week, semen analysis and sperm function tests were conducted. By week six, a drop in sperm concentration was noted with the phone-exposed group. By week eight, the drop in sperm count became statistically significant when compared with the two control groups, as well as when comparing the sperm concentration to the initial sperm concentration of this group prior to the experiment. Additionally, after week ten, the motile sperm population in the phone exposed group showed a significant decline compared to the control groups (Salama, Kishimoto, and Kanayama, 2010). This proves to be problematic as, “it is known that a correlation exists between sperm motility and sperm chromatin damage” (Kesari, Kumar, and Behari, 2011). There was also a significant decrease in the diameter of seminiferous tubules, where meiosis and sperm production takes place, in the phone group. However, when testing for sperm form, live sperm percentages, Hypo-osmotic swelling test, Acridine orange test, or mean serum total testosterone, no differences were found between control groups and the phone exposed group. The researchers concluded that cellular phones emitting low intensity pulsed radio frequency, could be affecting the testicular function and structure of adult rabbits (Salama, Kishimoto, and Kanayama, 2010).

Studies conducted on human sperm samples have demonstrated similar findings. In one study with 27 male participants, the results suggested that phone radiation affects sperm motility. The results found a statistically significant increase in the non-motility category of sperm movement, and a statistically significant decrease in rapid progressive and slow progressive sperm movement. Yet, no statistically significant difference in the sperm concentration between the two groups. The researchers concluded that EMR exposure has adverse effects on sperm motility, and that “long-term EMR exposure may lead to behavioral or structural changes of the male germ cell,” and should undergo a serious investigation (Erogul et al., 2006).

A study conducted on 70-day-old male Wistar rats, aimed to determine the effect of mobile phone exposure on free radical formation, unstable atoms due to an unpaired electron, and fertility. The study found a statistically significant greater amount of free radicals and micronuclei, and a decrease in the amount of histone kinase and antioxidants found in sperm in the exposed group. Regarding the greater amount of free radicals, “it is now generally accepted that overproduction of reactive oxygen species (a subset of free radicals) in sperm is associated with infertility,” and “may cause biological damage” (Kesari, Kumar, and Behari, 2011). The researchers concluded that radiofrequency electromagnetic waves produced from mobile phones might affect potential fertility in sperm. Interestingly, a study was conducted on 361 men undergoing fertility treatments, and their results indicate a similar finding. The study separated the men into four groups based on phone usage: no use, less than two hours a day, two to four hours a day, and greater than four hours a day. The researchers found a statistically significant decrease in mean sperm count, motility, viability, and normal morphology based on the daily exposure to cell phones. The researchers also took note of a positive correlation between these sperm parameters, stating that a decrease in one parameter was bound to cause a decrease in another (Agarwal et al., 2008). Furthermore, a study in Poland found that cellular phone exposure leads to “an increase in the percentage of sperm cells of abnormal morphology” and a decrease in sperm motility (Wdowiak, Wdowiak, and Wiktor, 2007).


Another crucial reproductive organ to investigate is the female ovaries. A study conducted on 82 rats that were 21 days old, investigated the toxic effects of cellular phone microwaves on their ovaries. The study group was composed of pregnant rats placed in cages with mobile phones underneath, and they were exposed to cellular phone radiation for 11 hours and 45 minutes each day. At 21 days old, the female rat pups were killed and had their right ovaries removed. The researchers calculated the volumes of the ovaries and the number of follicles in every tenth section. The study found the number of follicles in the study group to be lower than that in the control group. Based on these results, the researchers concluded that intrauterine exposure to microwaves emitted from mobile phones has toxic effects on ovaries (Gul, Celebi, and Uğraş, 2009).

Similarly, another study conducted on pregnant mice, suggests the ways phone radiation may be damaging while pregnant. The experiment revealed that exposure to LF-EMF, “increases degenerative changes and oocyte nest breakdown and follicular formation, undergoes a series of incomplete cell division, resulting in clusters called cysts or nests.” The results also indicated that the primordial follicles were less developed, some were binucleated, and the nuclei of oocytes “appeared heterochromatic, shrunken and had vacuolated cytoplasm.” The researchers concluded that exposure to EMF while pregnant “could affect both oocyte differentiation and folliculogenesis and may result in reduced fertility, by decreasing ovarian reservoir” (Roshangar et al., 2014).

Although studies have shown negative effects phone exposure has on fertility, it still remains unclear the mechanisms under which EMF leads to these effects. Some researchers have proposed that it is because exposure “could enhance the free radical activity.” Another proposal states, that since radiation can alter the structure of a protein, the “structural alteration in DNA repair enzymes might have caused changes in its function, leading to DNA damage” (D’Silva et al., 2017). Some researchers fear that, “cell phones may turn out to be the cigarettes of the 21st century,” since long term exposure studies have yet to be explored (D’Silva et al., 2017). Due to a lack of long term exposure studies, as well as ethical limitations, information regarding this matter requires more research. Therefore institutions including the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, “have not expressed a stance regarding cell phone use among infertility patients” (Merhi, 2012). However, due to the multiple studies that have been performed, researchers do suggest people limit their daily exposure and remain cautious.


Agarwal, A., Deepinder, F., Sharma, R. K., Ranga, G., Li, J., 2008, Effect of cell phone usage on semen analysis in men attending infertility clinic: an observational study. Fertility and Sterility, 89(1), 124–128.

D’Silva, M. H., Swer, R. T., Anbalagan, J., & Rajesh, B., 2017, Effect of Radiofrequency Radiation Emitted from 2G and 3G Cell Phone on Developing Liver of Chick Embryo – A Comparative Study. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research, 11(7), AC05–AC09.

Erogul, O., Oztas, E., Yildirim, I., Kir, T., Aydur, E., Komesli, G., Irkilata, H. C., Irmak, M. K., Peker, A. F., 2006, Effects of electromagnetic radiation from a cellular phone on human sperm motility: an in vitro study. Archives of medical research, 37(7), 840–843.

Gul, A., Celebi, H., Uğraş, S., 2009, The effects of microwave emitted by cellular phones on ovarian follicles in rats. Archives of gynecology and obstetrics, 280(5), 729–733.

Kesari, K. K., Kumar, S., Behari, J., 2011, Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic wave exposure from cellular phones on the reproductive pattern in male Wistar rats. Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology, 164(4), 546–559.

Merhi Z. O., 2012, Challenging cell phone impact on reproduction: a review. Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, 29(4), 293–297.

Roshangar, L., Hamdi, B. A., Khaki, A. A., Rad, J. S., Soleimani-Rad, S., 2014, Effect of low-frequency electromagnetic field exposure on oocyte differentiation and follicular development. Advanced biomedical research, 3, 76.

Salama, N., Kishimoto, T., & Kanayama, H. O., 2010, Effects of exposure to a mobile phone on testicular function and structure in adult rabbit. International Journal of Andrology, 33(1), 88–94.

Wdowiak, A., Wdowiak, L., Wiktor, H., 2007, Evaluation of the effect of using mobile phones on male fertility. Annals of agricultural and environmental medicine, 14(1), 169–172.