A developer from London has created underpants with a silver lining that, he says, will help protect our fertility by blocking damaging tech radiation. So do we really need this product?
The underpants, dubbed Wireless Armour, are the brainchild of Joseph Perkins, a physician from London, in the UK. The notion behind Wireless Armour is that the silver lining in the pants will, essentially, create a Faraday cage which is used to protect people and things from electromagnetic radiation and, so the idea goes, will therefore shield the male reproductive organs and save our fertility.
Perkins was apparently inspired to make this product when he realized that things like his mobile phone, his laptop and other wireless technology, which he was using on a day-to-day basis, might be exposing him and all of us to electromagnetic radiation that, some fear, could reduce fertility in both men and women and might drive up cancer rates.
Over the past decade in particular there have been a number of studies that have shown a worrying trend of men needing fertility intervention in order to conceive with their partner, as well as rising numbers of men having what are colloquially and somewhat unkindly referred to as “lazy” sperm. Scientists have moved to investigate this trend, but there are those, including Wireless Armour, who aren’t prepared to wait for the slow grind of scientific inquiry.
While the Wireless Armour’s website acknowledges how electromagnetic radiation is a phenomenon that is fundamental to our technological world (and life itself, in fact) it goes on to talk about exactly why Wireless Armour’s makers believe their product is necessary. I’m leaving the links intact in the following excerpt because they have at least gone to the trouble of highlighting actual (though select) scientific evidence on this, though we’ll discuss the interpretation more below:
Electromagnetic radiation has been attributed to a huge number of illnesses and although it may not be directly responsible to all of them there is a case for its involvement. The big one that Wireless Armour is out to counter is the shocking drop in fertility rates and sperm health in men. Since 1989 men’s sperm counts have dropped by over 1/3rd, this correlates surprisingly well with the first mobile phone widely available from 1983 and increasing from 12.4 million in 1990 to 6 billion in 2011. Whilst this correlation has not been verified there have been even more worrying studies showing a 25% drop in sperm counts after just 4 hours of Wi-Fi exposure. At Wireless Armour we do not want to wait around whilst the government and scientific community confirm 100% whether it is harmful to our health, we would rather protect ourselves now and find out later. Don’t Be A Test Subject!
The makers do provide a page where they talk about how the product has been tested and, specifically, what frequency bands the pants are supposed to block out (GSM being among them) but, crucially there’s no concrete proof these underpants actually provide sperm shielding in humans.
I also have to point out a few things about the rather scary data that is cited above, first of all the whiff of false cause and specifically the implication surrounding the decline in male fertility “correlating surprisingly well with the first mobile phone.” I’m forced to ask why link declining fertility to mobile phones when there were a number of other factors that might be just as salient. The McNugget, for instance, debuted on the nationwide market at around that same time. What about the correlation between a trans-fatty food boom and declining sperm counts? Perhaps that, though, would necessitate underpants of a different variety altogether?
This serves to illustrate one of the key grievances we might have with the sales pitch behind this product: that it fails to properly acknowledge not that there’s no conclusive link, but really the very sharp divide between what the scientific literature actually says and the public scare stories. While we can point to studies that have shown a drop in sperm health in the lab under very specific settings, there is little to no real-world data to back up the claim that EM emitting tech is actually at the root cause of our declining fertility rates.
In fact, there are a variety of other factors that could affect our fertility. Many of the following have a large body of data to support that they could be harming our fertility rates:
- junk food
- smoking and/or alcohol consumption
- a lack of physical activity
- chemicals from leeching plastics
It might be that the makers of these groin shielding pants would counter that they’re not saying that mobile phones and wi-fi do damage fertility. They just don’t want to take that risk, and as such are making products for like minded people. Of itself, that’s fine.
Even so, it is important to understand that there’s little convincing scientific evidence, at this stage, for us to believe that technology is a hazard to our fertility, or one that means we should rush out and buy special underwear.
Photo credit: Thinkstock.