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Carrying a mobile phone can reduce a man's sperm count by as much as 30 per cent, according to Hungarian scientists. The study suggests that the radiation from a phone on a belt or in their pocket, even on standby, is enough to have an effect on both sperm count, and the mobility of surviving sperm.

The study, which looked at 221 men, compared the sperm count of men who carried a handset for most of the day with the sperm of those who did not own a phone.

Dr Imre Fejes of the University of Szeged in Hungary led the research. He reported that the average sperm counts of men who were very active phone users was around 59 million per millilitre of seminal fluid, compared with 83 million for the men without phones.

Fejes acknowledged that further studies were needed to confirm the findings, but concluded that "prolonged use of cellphones may have a negative effect on spermatogenesis and male fertility that presumably deteriorates both concentration and motility".

The results, presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, Berlin, Germany, have been received cautiously by the scientific community. This is the first study to examine the impact of mobile phone radiation on fertility and specialists claim the study raises more questions than it answers.

Professor Hans Evers, a gynaecologist from the Academic Hospital in Maastricht, the Netherlands, said the research had not considered other factors, such as age and background, that would have an impact on fertility.

"It is an observational as opposed to interventional study which appears not to take into account the many potential confounding factors which could have skewed the results. For example, what if heavy mobile phone users in Hungary have particularly stressful lives and jobs?" Factors like this would have a considerable effect on the outcome of the research, he told The Independent.

The safety of mobile phone radiation is still a contentious issue. The independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation (AGNIR) issued a report in January, having reviewed the extant body of research. This concluded: "It is not possible at present to say that exposure to RF (radiofrequency) radiation, even at levels below national guidelines, is totally without potential adverse health effects, and that the gaps in knowledge are sufficient to justify a precautionary approach." ®

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