I remember one summer evening I was at home lounging on the couch and replying to emails on my laptop before my mother walked in the living room. There was a look of shock on her face the moment she saw my laptop sitting on, well, my lap. She then scolded me for being careless, and suggested that I use my laptop on a desk if I ever have plans of procreating in the future.
Needless to say, I was baffled—for two reasons. First, laptops were technically designed to be used on laps rather than desks. Second, what exactly was she insinuating? Was she suggesting that laptops are no longer safe for bodily contact? Was she suggesting they’re somehow adversely linked to fertility?
According to a report in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility, scientists have discovered that the electromagnetic radiation from a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop can ultimately damage sperm if the two are in close proximity. Semen samples from 29 men were collected in one study. Nearly a quarter of sperm were fried in samples stored directly underneath a Wi-Fi-connected laptop within four hours. In addition, 9% of the samples showed damaged DNA. At first glance, these findings do paint a rather bleak and serious health hazard for laptop users—men in particular—seeking parenthood, but it’s also important to realize that these findings, although interesting, were discovered in a completely artificial setting over a short time frame. So while it is true that a laptop can damage sperm quality and quantity, further studies are needed to see if it can adversely affect fertility in the long run.
In fact, Dr. Robert Oates, president of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, has stated that Wi-Fi-connected laptops do not pose a significant threat to male reproductive health. He claims the subject is “scientifically interesting, but […] doesn’t have any human biological relevance.” He then implies that a healthier diet and lifestyle are more important factors men should consider when fathering a child.
So, that’s a relief—not that I have any plans of procreating in the near future. However, I don’t entirely agree with the lack of biological relevance regarding this subject. While there have not been any substantial studies of laptops affecting fertility, it does not mean we should approach this matter lightly. I personally live by the motto that anything in excess is unhealthy for you: love, money, food, oxygen, that favorite mobile game you just can’t seem to put down (e.g., Candy Crush)—you name it.
Prolonged exposure of the male scrotum to laptop radiation is not an exception. At the very least, men should be aware of these findings and perhaps minimize the amount of exposure between the two. Don’t be oblivious and let your laptop sit on your lap for the next two hours because you’re busily churning out a paper or watching a film. Take breaks every now and then. And if you’re really erring on the side of caution, just find yourself a desk and use it. It’s always good to be on the safe side.
To this day, I’ve been using a portable lap desk whenever I’m at home in bed. Why? Partly because my laptop tends to overheat whenever it’s not on a hard flat surface, partly because I wouldn’t want my skin to get burned if it does overheat, partly because my desk has a neat cup holder for my coffee, but mostly because I don’t fancy having my scrotum serve as a hotbed for increasing levels of nuked sperm.
- Laptop WiFi May Damage Sperm, Study Suggests from Huffington Post Healthy Living by TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/29/laptop-wifi-sperm-damage…>
- Laptop Wi-Fi said to nuke sperm, but caveats abound from Reuters by Thomson Reuters <http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/29/us-laptop-sperm-idUSTRE7AR2FO20111129>
- Wi-fi from laptops ‘may damage sperm’ from NHS Choices by NHS England <http://www.nhs.uk/news/2011/12December/Pages/wifi-laptop-signals-sperm-fertility-damage.aspx>
Article by Justin Ramos
Feature Image Source: Wirecutter