As though they don’t already spend enough time welded to their cellphones , Microsoft Mobile has now collaborated with menswear fashion designer A. Sauvage to create a pair of "techno-trousers" that will mean that a man never needs to be parted from his cell, even to charge its battery.
The new power-packed pants were revealed at star-studded event attended by Tinie Tempah and presenter George Lamb. Microsoft Mobile (the newly re-named Nokia) have added a neat little Nokia DC-50 wireless charging plate into the trousers, so that phones can now be charged whilst in the trouser pockets. This device could solve that annoying problem of phones dying while users are out and about, though there are plenty of portable chargers available on the market. A pocket version would certainly be convenient, but do we really want our phones to be hard-wired into our haute couture?
A female version has not been mentioned; perhaps designers are worried that we will think "does my inductive charger look big in these trousers?" Male wearers may also find themselves constantly explaining that the bulge in their pocket is merely a piece of techno-kit and not a measure of their current enthusiasm, but there could be far more worrying implications.
Ironically, in the same week as the new battery-added britches were launched, new research indicated that men who keep a mobile phone in their trouser pocket could potentially be damaging their long-term health.
A new University of Exeter study, published in the journal Environment International, has conducted a systematic review of the results from ten previous studies focusing on the risk from mobile phone exposure. A team led by Dr. Fiona Mathews of Biosciences at the University of Exeter, reviewed 1,492 samples and concluded that there was strong evidence to suggest that male fertility could be affected by prolonged contact with the radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) emitted by mobile phones.
Dr. Mathews said in a press release: "This study strongly suggests that being exposed to radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation from carrying mobiles in trouser pockets negatively affects sperm quality. This could be particularly important for men already on the borderline of infertility, and further research is required to determine the full clinical implications for the general population."
Around fourteen per cent of couples in developed countries have issues with infertility, and in forty per cent of cases the problem is due to male factor infertility. Participants in the reviewed studies were sourced from fertility clinics and research centres, and their sperm quality was measured in three different ways: motility, viability and concentration. In previous studies conducted on animals, RF-EMR has been shown to reduce sperm count and motility, and these findings appeared to be replicated in the human studies, where decreased motility of sperm (ability of sperm to reach the egg), sperm concentration (the number of sperm per unit of semen) and viability (the proportion of sperm that were alive) all appeared to be negatively affected.
The overall findings of all studies conducted in this area have produced mixed results, however, as the effects have not always been consistent, and Dr. Mathews said that more work needs to be done:
"Given the enormous scale of mobile phone use around the world, the potential role of this environmental exposure [to mobile phone radiation] needs to be clarified," she said.
Dr Allan Pacey, a leading fertility expert from the Department of Human Metabolism at the University of Sheffield, also agreed that more studies were required, but said that for the time being, he would be happy to keep his iPhone in his trouser pocket:
"There have been some crazy and alarming headlines on this subject," he said." But, in my opinion, the studies undertaken to date have been somewhat limited. That’s because they have either sperm kept in a dish irradiated at frequencies used by mobile phones (which is not realistic) or they have made assessments of men’s phone habits without adequately considering other aspects of their lifestyle.
"Therefore, whilst undertaking a meta-analysis can be a good idea, in this instance I don’t think it helps us decide whether there is any risk of keeping a phone in your trouser pocket or not. What we need are some properly designed epidemiological studies where mobile phone use is considered alongside other lifestyle habits."
In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified the RF-EMR radiation from mobile phones as Group 2B – " possibly carcinogenic". This implies that there "could be some risk" of carcinogenicity, and that more research into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones needs to be conducted. Until this extra research is carried out, however, couples planning a family might want to keep the phone-charging pants off their shopping list.