Electromagnetic Fields Found to Negatively Affect Testosterone Levels

MAY 05, 2015
Andrew Smith
Exposure to electromagnetic fields had been recently found to reduce the amount of testosterone men produce, potentially reducing their fertility.

A study team from Zhejiang University compared 77 men who work at a power plant that generates electricity with 77 controls with low occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields.

The 2 groups were matched not only by age, but also on the basis of a wide range of demographic and lifestyle metrics that researchers gauged by means of a standardized questionnaire.

The researchers then used an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to measure testosterone, estradiol, melatonin, heat–shock protein 70, heat-shock protein 27, ten-eleven translocation methylcytosine dioxygenase 1 (TET1) and nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB).

The power-plant workers, compared to the controls, had statistically significantly lower levels of testosterone (β = −0.3 nmol/L; p = 0.015), testosterone-to-estradiol ratio (β = −15.6; p = 0.037), and NF-κB (β = −20.8 ng/L; p = 0.045).

The researchers then analyzed how each of the power plant workers used electronic devices in private life, and they found still more evidence of the effects of electromagnetic fields. Higher mobile phone fees, more years of mobile phone usage, and higher home electric bills were all found to have significant effects on testosterone levels and testosterone-to-estradiol ratios.

There was no evidence; however, that either power plants or personal electronics affected levels of plasma estradiol, melatonin, heat-shock protein 70, heat-shock protein 27 or TET1.

“No significant associations of electromagnetic field exposure with inflammatory pathway biomarkers were found,” the study authors wrote in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health.

The authors also wrote that their work warrants significant follow-up research to explore the serious possible implications.

“The findings showed that chronic exposure to electromagnetic fields could decrease male plasma testosterone and testosterone-to-estradiol ratio, and it might possibly affect reproductive functions in males,” they concluded.

The results of the new study added weight to concerns that increasing exposure to electromagnetic fields constitutes a major health risk for men, but the assertion remains controversial.
A large number of studies have attempted to measure the effects of both high-frequency and low-frequency electromagnetic radiation on humans and animals. The results, so far, had been highly mixed.

An Egyptian study published by Clinical Biochemistry in 2012, followed volunteers for 6 years and concluded that use of personal mobile phones or prolonged proximity to mobile phone base stations reduced levels of testosterone, cortisol, and adrenocorticotropic hormone.

A French study published by Radiation Research in 2007, on the other hand, compared blood samples before and after 20 healthy male volunteers undertook a 4-week period of relatively intense mobile phone usage and found that the effort did not have any significant impact on their levels of cortisol, testosterone, thyroid-stimulating hormone, growth hormone, prolactin, or adrenocorticotropin. (The 2 hours of usage per day that constituted intense usage before the rise of the smartphone probably does not qualify as “intense” today.)

A Danish study published by Reproductive Toxicology in 2012, moreover, measured the effects of magnetic resonance imaging on 24 healthy male volunteers and found that it had no impact on sex hormone levels, either immediately after a procedure or 11 days after its completion.

Studies on animals have been similarly inconclusive. Some have found that electromagnetic radiation has dramatic effects on male sex hormones. Others have found no impact.

That said, something has been steadily reducing the testosterone levels of American men for at least a couple decades now, according to findings from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. The total testosterone levels of an average male of any given age in 2004 were found to be 17% lower than those of an average man who was the same age in 1987.


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