Wireless Armour underwear: does it work?

When Kieran heard that a company called Wireless Armour had been making claims about the threat to sperm posed by electromagnetic radiation, he decided to Ask for Evidence.

Wireless Armour produces silver-lined underwear designed to stop electromagnetic radiation reaching a man’s “most important assets”. In fact last year, Chris asked for evidence about the claim that Wireless Armour blocked “99.9% of harmful radiation” and the advertising standards agency ended up ruling that there was “insufficient evidence to back up the claim that the product could protect the genitals from electromagnetic radiation or that there was a link between electromagnetic radiation and infertility”.

Wireless Armour now claims its product “is designed to preserve the health of a wireless generation exposing themselves to unprecedented levels of electromagnetic radiation.” Note here there is no specific claim that it protects against harmful radiation, just unprecedented radiation.  

Wireless Armour got back to Kieran’s inquiry citing a number of studies, in particular a study purporting to agree with Wireless Armours claim that their underwear blocks 99.9% of electromagnetic radiation and another undertaken by the University of Essex entitled “The effects of mobile telephones on sperm quality: A systematic review and meta-analysis” that showed a link between mobile phones and decreased sperm mobility.

We asked Professor Allan Pacey to assess the validity of the evidence and the studies cited. We think it is worth putting his reply below in full but essentially: there’s no evidence that using a mobile phone reduces sperm count or quality in the real world, and no studies have been done to show that Wireless Armour would protect from it anyway. It seems Wireless Armour is selling a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

Professor Allan Pacey told us:

“The papers by Agarwal et al., (2009) and Avendaño et al., (2012) both undertake experiments on ejaculated sperm. But this is very different from the conditions in which sperm are held deep inside the body of the underpant wearer, when sperm are surrounded by other body tissues and fluids of the testicle.

“In his reply Mr Perkins makes reference to the meta-analysis by Adams et al., (2014). Unfortunately, 8 of the 10 are studies with the same flaw, with ejaculated sperm being exposed to electromagnetic radiation in the laboratory.

“We know from epidemiological studies (e.g. Povey et al., 2012) that men who wear loose pants ejaculate a greater number of swimming sperm than men who wear tight underwear. But to my knowledge, no such studies have included mobile phone use as one of those variables.

“To test whether Wireless Armour actually protects against any detrimental effects of electromagnetic radiation, it would be necessary to do a randomized controlled trial comparing the sperm quality of men who wore Wireless Armour underpants containing silver with those wearing the same style of pants but where the silver had not been included. “To test whether any increase in temperature because of the close fitting nature of the underwear was itself detrimental to sperm production, the trial would need a third group of men wearing looser underwear to be included alongside.

“Such a trial would need to take place over a period of three months or greater, since it can take up to 72 days to produce a sperm from start to finish and we are not sure which part of the sperm production process might be the most temperature or electromagnetic sensitive. It doesn’t look like Wireless Armour has done such a trial.

 

This ask for evidence story was written by Ed Parker and Georgina Glaser, members of our Voice of Young Science Network.

Image by conorwithonen - (CC BY-NC 2.0)

 

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