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A leading fertility researcher warns men to keep their mobile phones out of their pants pockets if they want to have children.

John Aitken of the University of Newcastle in Australia says in a study published this week that cellular phones in men's pants pockets damage sperm cells and their DNA.

Unlike previous studies that tested the effect of radiation on laboratory animals, Aitken's research group examined what happens to human sperm after 16 hours of exposure to mobile phone radiation. The study's findings have been published in the journal Public Library of Science.

The study finds that a number of sperm-cell functions such as vitality motility were damaged following exposure. The DNA was also harmed. The researchers note that damage to sperm-cell function, not necessarily caused by radiation, is one of the main reasons that one out of 20 men in the world today suffer fertility problems.

Aitken, director of the Australian Research Council's Center of Excellence in Biotechnology and Development, says the DNA damage may not have been caused by the radiation directly. Exposure to radiation causes electrons to leak from one part of a sperm cell to other parts, leading to oxidation processes that harm the DNA. The DNA damage affects other sperm-cell functions.

Microwave News, a leading Web site covering health and safety issues related to exposure to electromagnetic radiation, says the current study confirms Aitken's study from 2005, which established a relationship between the use of mobile phones and reduced fertility among men.

"After 16 hours exposure, there was clear evidence of DNA damage," Aitken is quoted in Microwave News from an address at a fertility conference in Brisbane last fall.