Adverts for Richard Branson-backed 'radiation-repelling' underpants banned by ASA
ASA found insufficient evidence to back up the brand’s claims
The advertising watchdog has banned an underwear brand, backed by Sir Richard Branson, from claiming that its “metal cage” product shields men’s genitals from radiation emitted by mobile phones.
Sir Richard named Wireless Armour as one of his "top ten back-of-an-envelope start-up ideas" at the Business Show in London last year.
Founded by Joseph Perkins, the brand claimed that its pants can preserve male fertility by protecting wearers from electromagnetic radiation emitted from everyday wireless devices, such as a phone tucked into a trouser pocket near a user’s crotch.
Wireless Armour said that its underwear incorporates “a mesh of pure silver woven into the fabric of each item. This encases the user in a cage of metal”.
This Faraday Cage is “special because any electromagnetic radiation that hits it is distributed around the cage, therefore not allowing it to enter the cage and affect whatever [sic] is stored within…”
However the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found insufficient evidence to back up the brand’s claim that the product, “when utilised by consumers, was able to prevent electromagnetic radiation from reaching the genitals".
The watchdog “reviewed the test report provided to see whether the product was able to shield wearers from EM. We noted, however, that the report referred to a sample of the fabric that was used to construct the product and not to the product when assembled into pants, and worn by consumers”. It is not clear if any member of the ASA wore the pants to test the claims.
Wireless Armour cited studies which it claimed show that a mobile phone positioned 2.5cm away from the testes in a trouser pocket had a proven negative impact on male fertility by decreasing sperm count and motility.
The watchdog said the studies failed to demonstrate the link. One relied on the phone being switched on to Bluetooth mode, and also said that “because male productive organs were separated by multiple tissue layers, it was not possible to extrapolate the effects seen to real-life conditions without further research”.
The ASA rejected a study based on male rat sperm, which it said could not be extrapolated to humans. Another study failed to consider the effect of leaving a phone in standby mode or the contribution of other possible EM sources, such as computers and radio towers.
The ASA said: “We therefore considered that none of the papers that had been provided demonstrated that mobile phone radiation had a proven negative impact on human male fertility, and concluded that the claims asserting a link between the two were misleading.”
The advert was banned and Wireless Armour told to provide adequate evidence to substantiate claims made in its future marketing.
Sir Richard had backed the venture, writing on the Virgin blog: “Joseph here looks like he’s invented underpants for superheroes! All men should take care of their precious crown jewels so this sounds like a very intriguing invention I'd like to know more about.”
Wireless Armour was born from Perkins’ belief that between his laptop, mobile and tablet he was exposing himself to electromagnetic radiation, concentrated mostly around his groin area.
The company plans to expand the range into women’s bras in response to fears linking breast cancer and phone proximity.
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