A Tin Foil Hat For Your Testicles

There's a lot of tricks for boosting your fertility if you're trying to conceive. Now, there's underwear that supposedly will help too. The RadiaShield Boxer brief ($49), a new product from clothing company Belly Armour, claims it can protect your sperm by acting as a shield — one with the thick protectiveness of metals but the lightness of cotton — from radiation emitted by cell phones, laptops, and tablets. But do they really work?

The boxers respond to research showing radiation from wireless devices can reduce sperm count, damage your sperm shape and increase erectile dysfunction. A study published earlier this year from the University of Exeter found that cell phone exposure can negatively affect your sperm count and quality. And previous research looking at human semen samples suggested that keeping your cell phone in your pocket leads to oxidative stress in semen — meaning that it damages the semen quality and impairs your chances of conceiving. With an estimated 1 in 8 couples today having trouble getting pregnant according to the CDC, there's a chance radiation does affect fertility. 

The boxers supposedly block this radiation by means of a protective panel on the crotch made of silver-conductive fabric — a material that can conduct electricity so it'll absorb then reflect electromagnetic waves from your devices away from you. Lam says it was tested in labs that look at cell phone emission and supposedly the results showed a 99 percent shielding effect "equal to that of a quarter inch thick sheet of aluminum."

But fertility experts aren't so convinced. Dr. Joseph Alukal, a urologist specializing in male fertility at NYU Langone Medical Center says the issues of radiation and sperm count they encounter are mainly from people in cancer treatment — where the exposure is much higher. "You don't get comparable exposure from your cell phone," he says. "If cell phones are good at knocking out sperm count, we'd be using them as contraceptive devices. Lots of guys who carry their cell phones in their pocket are getting women pregnant."

And when it comes to recommending a wearable device like the RadiaShield for his patients that want to protect their sperm, Dr. Alukal says he would want to have more data first. "I'm not disparaging the product, but I can't guarantee this will help you towards your goal of having a kid," he explains. "So I would encourage patients to go for a more straightforward solution."

Dr. Edmund Sabanegh, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic, says that while studies from the Clinic do show cell phone radiation can damage men's fertility at high doses, you can easily make an effort to minimize exposure — sans briefs. "Keep the phone as far from your reproductive organ as you can and don't have laptops directly on top of your lap," says Sebanegh.

For those who aren't willing to shell out $49 for the briefs, or aren't convinced about such a product's effectiveness, there are other ways you can maintain your sperm health too. The simplest thing to do, says Dr. Alukal, is eat a balanced diet, exercise, and get a good night's sleep — habits that will help the everyday man's sperm numbers increase. "And if you smoke, quit smoking," he adds, "And if you're at all concerned about your sperm numbers as an individual case, don't be afraid to see a urologist."