Semen quality and hormone levels among radiofrequency heater operators

J Occup Environ Med. 2000 Oct;42(10):993-1005. doi: 10.1097/00043764-200010000-00005.


Approximately 9,000,000 US workers are occupationally exposed to radiofrequency (RF) radiation; over 250,000 operate RF dielectric heaters. Our purpose was to determine whether male RF heater operators experience increased adverse reproductive effects reflected in reduced semen quality or altered hormone levels. We measured incident RF heater radiation exposures and RF-induced foot currents at four companies. For 12 male heater operators and a comparison group of 34 RF-unexposed men, we measured 33 parameters of semen quality and four serum hormones. Despite wide variation in individual exposure levels, near field strengths and induced foot currents did not exceed current standard levels and guidelines. We observed minor semen quality and hormonal differences between the groups, including a slightly higher mean follicle-stimulating hormone level for exposed operators (7.6 vs 5.8 mIU/mL). Further occupational studies of RF-exposed men may be warranted.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chromatin
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood*
  • Heating*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood*
  • Male
  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S.
  • Occupational Exposure*
  • Occupations
  • Pregnancy
  • Prolactin / blood*
  • Radio Waves*
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Semen / radiation effects*
  • Spermatozoa / chemistry
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • United States


  • Chromatin
  • Testosterone
  • Prolactin
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone