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Should men (and boys) be wearing radiation-proof underwear?

You’ve probably heard people talk about their personal concerns related to EMFs, and radiation just sounds a little scary. After all, you can’t see the waves, and they’re out there, everywhere…

So when I got approached about a brand-new product— Lambs radiation-proof underwear—that promised to protect men from reproductive harm and increased risk of cancer caused by EMFs, my first reaction was to tell my son and husband to put them on… fast.

Should we all be more worried about how EMF exposure affects men and boys in terms of reduced sperm count and carcinogenic effects? Especially given the fact that they tend to keep their phones in their front pockets, right near that most sensitive area? My teenage son carries his phone in his front pocket constantly. We talk about it incessantly, but honestly, I can’t figure out how he’d carry his phone around any other way— yes, it’s in his backpack if he’s at school, but he’s a teenage boy who isn’t going to start carrying a “man purse” on the weekends.

It’s a problem I’m very aware of, and concerned about, yet to be honest we haven’t come up with a solution.

I decided to do a bit more digging to figure out just how concerned I should be.

What is EMF Exposure?

EMF stands for “electric and magnetic fields” and it refers to a broad range of radiation we’re exposed to every day. That includes high-level (or ionizing) radiation from X-rays and UV light and low-level (or non-ionizing) radiation from devices like microwaves, power lines, cellphones, and WiFi routers. 

The fact that X-rays and UV rays cause DNA damage at high levels of exposure is well-known. So far, the science on non-ionizing radiation shows that it is not strong enough to cause that level of damage, but many people are concerned about how it might affect the body in other less-intense ways, especially given how ubiquitous cellphones, routers, computers, and Bluetooth now are.

Do men really need radiation-proof underwear?

Lambs launched in May 2019 and bills itself as “an innovative radiation-proof underwear line that blocks 99% of harmful electromagnetic field radiation (EMF) caused by cell phones and other wireless devices.” Its main selling points are protecting men from reduced sperm count and a decrease in sperm viability and an increase in tumor risk.

Let’s tackle the tumor promise first, since it’s the scariest. While the website declares that men exposed to cell phone radiation all day may experience a 28 percent “increase in risk of developing gland tumor,” that stat may be misleading. The studies it links to are not related to any body part that radiation-proof underwear would protect against: it cites studies showing an increased risk in brain and salivary gland tumors. (The company also sells beanies, but they don’t make the distinction clear.) And the studies referenced are far from conclusive. In fact, the body of research so far does not support an increased risk of cancer, although much more research is needed. The one area in which research suggests an association that is the most cause for concern is related to childhood leukemia, which no underwear could protect against.

On the topic of male reproductive health, the sell is more convincing. A meta-analysis (which analyzes multiple studies) published in 2014 looked at both human and lab studies on the issue and based on the results from both, concluded that “mobile phone exposure negatively affects sperm quality.” 

More research is needed to determine exactly how pronounced the effect is on reducing sperm count and motility (their ability to swim around, which is crucial for fertility), but given the fact that boys now have cell phones in their front pocket starting as young as 9 or 10, that feels like a major cause for concern.

What wearing radiation-proof underwear feels like

So, if you’re curious about investing in a pair for a man in your life but are thinking it must be like wearing a spacesuit or suit of armor, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Lambs uses a proprietary silver-lined fabric called WaveStopper that is certified to block over 99 percent of cellphone and WiFi radiation. Essentially, the silver woven into a mesh creates an electromagnetic shield. While it was developed based on technology used for NASA space suits, the fabric is cottony and soft. There are silver fibers on the inside, but the underwear don’t feel metal-y in any way.

My son has a pair in rotation with the rest of his underwear and says they’re just as soft and breathable, and just as easy to wear. Teen stamp of approval!

Not only is he comfy, I’ve got a little more peace of mind while we wait for more research on EMF exposure to clarify the risks.

Have you tried strategies to reduce your or your family’s exposure to radiation? Chime in in the comments, below.

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