Wireless devices and gadgets are growing in popularity because they are convenient to use.
However, research suggests that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) commonly linked to these devices are associated with various health issues in men and women.
EMFs and reproductive health
The constant use of modern gadgets means you are frequently exposed to EMFs, which could lead to worries about infertility and miscarriages. Many young adults who want to have children are now struggling with infertility. Data suggests that almost one in five couples have trouble getting pregnant, and the number of miscarriages is going up by one percent annually.
Signals from your wireless devices and electronics can cause stress inside sensitive cells, potentially harming important organs involved in reproduction.
Additionally, EMFs from these devices can hurt the parts of the body responsible for having babies, with findings from animal studies supporting this idea.
How EMFs affect female organs
Findings from an animal study showed that when female rats were exposed to EMFs all over their bodies, their ovaries were damaged. While the same hasn't been proven in humans, there is still a risk that continuous EMF exposure could, over time, cause infertility
EMFs can stop eggs from being released and cause harm to eggs stored in the ovaries. Experts said some types of EMFs can also affect the growth of egg-containing structures called follicles, which can make it harder for women to get pregnant.
Studies have also found that EMF exposure can make animals take longer to have babies. (Related: Radiofrequency radiation linked to brain damage and Alzheimer’s, experts warn.)
How EMFs affect male organs
Male animal subjects exposed to radiation from mobile phones also experienced damage to their testicles.
A 2021 study found that male mice exposed to 4G phone signals grew irregular layers of cells in their reproductive organs. Researchers reported that 4G radiation might hurt rat kidneys and testes.
A review in Electronic Physician suggested that EMFs can reduce and kill sperm-producing cells in mice. Studies analyzed in the review showed that EMFs can break the DNA in cells that grow into embryos.
EMFs and hormonal disruptions
EMFs can directly impact the pineal gland, which controls hormones. In turn, this lowers melatonin, a hormone that affects sleep, sperm production and reproduction.
Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet, a preventive medicine specialist, said experts haven't had enough time to study the effects of the recent increase in radiofrequency EMFs on human reproductive organs, particularly because iPhones were only invented in 2007.
Vliet suggests taking antioxidants like vitamins C, D, E and melatonin to protect against the potential dangers of EMFs. Antioxidants can protect cells and tissues from EMF-induced oxidative stress.
Data shows EMFs can damage sperm
Research involving human participants has found that EMF exposure can harm sperm cells.
According to Professor Geoffry De Iuliis, who specializes in reproductive medicine at the University of Newcastle, sperm cells are "uniquely susceptible to oxidation."
Sperm cells are built for one goal: to quickly swim and fertilize eggs. To make this possible, sperm cells have limited space for their the cytosol, a part of their inner structure. This makes it hard for antioxidants to protect them from EMF-induced oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress causes issues like DNA damage and problems with sperm health and movement. Additionally, the protective elements that typically guard sperm DNA are limited.
To ensure that they move smoothly upon fertilization, sperm cells have more easily oxidized polyunsaturated fats than stable saturated fats in their membranes.
Research suggests that frequent use of mobile phones -- a constant source of EMF radiation -- is linked to a higher chance of male infertility.
Research by Dr. Ashok Agrawal, a urologist, revealed that men who used their phones less often had healthier semen with more sperm, better movement, viability and normal structure than men who spent hours on their phones.
To maintain healthy sperm cells, experts recommend males actively avoid wireless EMF sources like radio towers and use their cell phones less frequently. Additionally, it is better to avoid keeping phones in pockets close to the testes.
EMF exposures, women's health and miscarriages
Kjell Hansson Mild, a radiation consultant at Umea University in Sweden, explained that EMF exposure while pregnant is closely tied to miscarriages.
According to studies on pregnant women working in offices, constant exposure to EMF from computer monitors can harm human reproduction and cause birth defects and miscarriages.
One such study was conducted by Kaiser Permanente in California. Researchers tracked more than 900 pregnant women to find any links between non-ionizing EMF exposure and the risk of miscarriage.
Data revealed that women who had more exposure to strong magnetic fields were at least three times more likely to have a miscarriage compared to women with less exposure.
Dr. De-Kun Li, the lead author and a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente, explained that because of the current lack of research on this subject, experts still "don’t know the biological threshold beyond which problems may develop." Continued study is also needed to fully understand the possible mechanisms for increased risks.
In a 2021 study in Iran, researchers reported that EMFs with a frequency higher than 50 Hz can raise the risk of a miscarriage. This link between EMF exposure and miscarriage leads to more questions about the safety of ultrasound exposure during pregnancy. After all, ultrasound machines also generate EMFs.
Studies also suggest that ultrasound might increase oxidation and the risks associated with EMF exposure might not stop even after childbirth.
In 2018, a study followed about 3,000 pregnant women and found that the women who used their phones regularly were more likely to have children with lower average cognitive scores. Another study from Spain also connected mobile phone use to a higher chance of behavioral problems in children.