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Sperm Sucker?

"MOBILE phones are sperm suckers", the headlines screamed a few years ago striking fear into the 72 per cent of mobile-touting UK men, particularly those planning to have a family.

Researchers from the University of Szeged in Hungary claim mobile phones could lower sperm counts by up to a third, thanks to the radiation they emit.

The study, which followed 221 men for 13 months, discovered those who carried a phone around all day had an average sperm count of 59.11 million per millilitre of seminal fluid, whereas those who didn't boasted a much healthier 82.97 million.

It's not the first time plummeting sperm counts have made the news. Earlier this year, a study of 7,500 men in Aberdeen suggested the average sperm count had fallen by 29 per cent between 1989 and 2002.

But prying your beloved mobile from your trouser pocket may not be necessary, says Allan Pacey, a fertility expert at the University of Sheffield and spokesman for the British Fertility Society.

"Experts are divided on whether mobiles really do represent a risk to male fertility," he says. "The Hungarian research is a very preliminary study and I don't think there's conclusive evidence that putting a mobile phone in your pocket decreases sperm quality. I'm a mobile user and I'm not worried about it."

Though the jury's still out on mobiles, there is strong evidence that other factors have a detrimental effect on sperm health.

Driving

Italian researchers claim sitting behind the wheel for prolonged periods is bad news for sperm. Taxi drivers and other men with driving jobs were shown to have reduced fertility levels. This is probably because heating the testicles even a few degrees will rapidly slow the production of sperm. Plus experiments show that driving for longer than two hours raises testicle temperature by around two degrees. Minimize the damage by taking regular hourly breaks from the wheel in which you walk around for at least 10 minutes.

Smoking

Studies reveal that smoking tobacco can lower sperm numbers and potentially damage sperm DNA. Smoking marijuana is also bad say researchers from the University of Buffalo in New York state. Regular dope smokers have less seminal fluid and lower sperm counts than non-smokers, they claim. To minimize the damage Quit smoking both cigarettes and joints for top-notch sperm quality.

Solvents

A Canadian study claims painters and decorators, builders, dry cleaners and men exposed to solvents are twice as likely to have low sperm counts as men who don't. Using gloves and masks may offer some protection.

Weight Problems

Scientists from Atlanta believe being overweight may affect the quality of sperm and that obese men are less likely to father children than those with a healthy weight. According to fertility experts, this is because excess body fat creates localized heat in the groin area that can damage sperm. If your waist measures over 40in (102cm) you need to lose weight.

Chlamydia

Until recently, this sexually transmitted disease was thought only to affect women's fertility. But a recent Swedish study suggests it could damage men's fertility too. Practice safe sex - condoms prevent the transmission of chlamydia.

Paul Ellis - Men's Health

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