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Calling Dr. Fertility

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Cell phones are great interrupters

Cell phones are great interrupters. They break into relaxing dinners, our concentration while reading, and many a face-to-face heart to heart. They interrupt a lot. "The number of cell phone users in Canada has risen from 100,000 in 1987 to more than 9.5 million in 2001," says Health Canada. Cell phones are potent interrupters, but can they get between sperm and egg? New research suggests they may.

A team led by Dr. Imre Fejes at the University of Szeged in Hungary observed 221 men over 13 months. They compared sperm from very active users of cellular phones with that of non-users. The men who carried a phone on standby with them throughout the day had a significant 30-percent lower sperm concentration and damaged sperm motility. The researchers believe the culprit is cell phone radiation. Dr. Fejes says other studies are needed to confirm his findings, which were presented in July 2005 at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Berlin.

The need for more evidence is loudly cheered by skeptics. Among these is Professor Hans Evers, a past president of the ESHRE society. "This research is interesting but raises more questions than it answers," Evers told Reuters news. Evers pointed out that the study ignored other impacts on fertility such as lifestyle, social background, and age.

Despite their advertised safety, some cell phones and other wireless transceivers can affect the operation of pacemakers, implantable defibrillators, and other on-body medical devices. Combine this with the newest inconclusive study, and our best call regarding cell phones may be "buyer beware."

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