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This study has found that phones dramatically reduce fertility, is it flawed?

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A study done at a fertility clinic, which had 300 subjects, found that cell phone use harms male fertility. This is obviously very concerning, but is it flawed? Their exclusion criteria was:

“Subjects who had undergo surgery for hernia repair, medical diseases as D.M, U.T.I, thyroid disease, patients who were on antipsychotic or antihypertensive drugs, or taking alcohol, azoospermics & those with small sized testes were excluded from the study.”

That doesn’t seem like a very extensive criteria to account for the fact that patents where already infertile. Their questionnaire isn’t available, they say they looked into ‘general information’. The study was also done in Iraq, during the Iraq war, I don’t know if that affects the results or not, but I’d imagine people who live in a war zone are more prone to stress and anxiety, although I don’t know if they accounted for that. Fertility health awareness also doesn’t strike me as a priority for the Iraq government in 2011, so that may be another issue. Also, people who use phones will be exposed to more news about the war then those without phones. To me, it seems like a study that investigated if being Catholic leads to greater stress, by conducting the study in Belfast at the height of The Troubles, so of course they are going to have higher stress levels than the general population.

There is one thing that I’m struggling to debunk. The study divided cell phone users by where they store their phone, in their pocket (n=112), in a waist pouch (n=127), or in a shirt pocket (n=30). They found that the worst sperm quality was among men how kept their phones in their pockets, with the ‘best’ being those had kept their phone in a shirt pocket. So the closer the phone is to the testicles, the worse the fertility. This seems to be quite convincing. Is it proof that the study isn’t flawed?

It may be that putting a phone in your pocket tightens you trousers, which harms fertility, or owning a shirt with a pocket is associated with certain careers (Office workers, CEOs, etc. which all have different traits that affect fertility), but I’m not too sure. 

They also divided subjects into use groups (4 hours of use a day, 3 hours, etc.) and only 30 people made up the non-user category, which doesn’t seem like a lot. Does this seem like a flawed study?

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  • 4 weeks later...
I'm no biologist or even particularly knowledgeable about science in general, at least not at a scientist's level. But I would be sceptical about that sort of thing.

For years a lot of people have been making claims that things have huge health benefits or threats. But apparently there's reason to think it's been done to get attention, sell stuff or just bad science. 

In Britain there's a newspaper called The Daily Mail, here is a list of all the things they genuinely claimed cause cancer: 

Daily Mail, cancer


And make sure your pop-up blocker is on before you look at these...

Adam ruins nutrition

Adam ruins science

Which show how flawed studies can be and how easy it is to fake one. They even had an interview with a man who deliberately published a completely false study just to prove how easily the media could be fooled or how little they cared about facts. And they demonstrate how some science journals will literally publish anything they're paid to.

The media is so hungry for stories that some of them will willingly publish and report bad science as long as it grabs people's attention. And since most men have cell phones, this sounds to me exactly the thing that would do just that.

My advice is look into this with an open mind and grain of salt.

Edited by Omnifarious
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Ethics, Morals, and policies on drug, alcohol, and tobacco addiction
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