/ 27 October 2006

Chatterboxes talk their way to infertility

Research studies have indicated that two crucial aids to modern living — cellphones and anti-depressants — may undermine male fertility.

Samples taken by the Case Western Reserve University in Ohio from men attending an American fertility clinic suggested that their sperm declined steadily in number, quality and ability to swim as cellphone usage increased.

Where men used their cellphones for more than four hours a day, researchers found a 30% drop in sperm motility or movement and viability when compared with men who did not use a cellphone.

The research received a cautious ­welcome from other scientists, who called for further studies to rule out other factors known to influence sperm quality, such as age, weight, smoking, stress and whether people had sedentary jobs.

Ashok Agarwal, who presented his findings at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in New Orleans, remarked on a worldwide decrease in male fertility in which ­cellphone use could be a factor.

”People use cellphones without thinking twice about the consequences. It still has to be proved, but cellphones could be having a huge impact because they are so much part of our lives.’’

Almost one billion people use cellphones around the world and the number is growing in many countries at 20% to 30% annually.

Agarwal said cellphone radiation may harm sperm by damaging DNA, disrupting cells that produce testosterone in the testes, or shrinking the tubules where sperm are created.

At the same time, American research reported this week suggested best-­selling antidepressant drugs may be making some men infertile. A study of two men at Cornell Medical Centre in New York whose sperm counts dropped to almost zero while taking the drugs, showed they recovered to healthy levels when their medication was ­suspended.

The men were tested over a two-year period while being treated with the antidepressants Citalopram (Cipramil) or Sertraline (Lustral), which belong to the same class of drugs as Prozac.

A further 12 men at the clinic have since been discovered to experience a similar but less dramatic fall in sperm counts while on the medication. — Â