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April 3, 2010, last updated May 3, 2012
By Rory McClenaghan, Contributing Columnist
Laptops have become part of the essential gear of modern life. Most of
us can't imagine getting through a day without them. They are the
perfect combination of technology and convenience, an office you can
take anywhere, no need for a desk or even a chair. But for all their
usefulness, laptops may also come free with a hidden health risk, for
the male half of the population at least. Why? Laptops have been linked
with significant reductions in sperm count in several research studies.
Many men worry that using laptops could reduce their sperm count and
lead to infertility. With the portable computer market going from
strength-to-strength (the Consumer Electronics Association reports
that in 2009, sales of laptops outstripped desktop PCs, with 63% of
computers sold being portable), it is a real concern. And according to a
2004 study by the State University of York, men may have real cause to
There is no secret chemical at work here that makes laptops dangerous.
The problem is simply heat.
The State University of York was encouraged to undertake its study of
laptops after an earlier study from Denmark found a definte link
between sperm count and the temoerature of a man's scrotum. That
study, conducted by Aarhus University in Denmark in 2001, measured
the impact of diurnal scrotal temperature on semen quality. The Danish
researchers took semen samples from a group of 99 men and analyzed
them in relation to scrotal temperature. The scrotal sack needs to be
kept cool, which is why it is kept outside of the body.
The Danish researchers found that an increase of just 1°C over a man's
median daily scrotal temperature decreased his sperm concentration by
a massive 40%.
The research team from the State University of New York, led by Yefim
Sheynkin, based their study into laptops on these findings. If they
could show that using a laptop on your lap increased the scrotal
temperatures of men then they would have found a link between laptop
use and a reduced sperm count. As Dr Sheynkin explains: "Laptops can
reach internal operating temperatures of over 70°C. They are
frequently positioned close to the scrotum, as well as being capable of
producing direct local heat, they require the user to sit with his thighs
close together to balance the machine, trapping the scrotum."
The research team worked with 29 men between the ages of 21 and
35. The volunteers were tested over two one-hour periods on separate
days, with and without the laptops. Over the course of an hour the
temperature of the laptops rose from 31°C to almost 40°C. The scrotal
temperature of the volunteers went up by 1°C in 15 minutes – causing
a 40% decrease in sperm concentration if the findings of the Danish
survey are to be believed.
With such a big change in scrotal temperature in just 15 minutes it is
little wonder that Dr. Sheynkin concluded that using a laptop on your
lap for a number of years, “may cause irreversible or partially reversible
changes in male reproductive function". Since the study there has been
little work done to back up Dr Sheynkin's findings and as yet no
evidence that contradicts the conclusion that using laptops can reduce
your sperm count.
So what should we take away from these findings? With the only
research suggesting that working with a laptop on your lap could
damage your chances of starting a family, the only logical course for
guys is to keep the laptop away from their laps. Here aresome tips:
1. Keep your machine on a desk or table, not on your lap.
2. Make sure to get up from your sitting position every half hour or so
to avoid scrotal overheating. Perhaps we should just stop calling them
laptops altogether, maybe notebook would be a better and safer name
for a harmless product which can become dangerous if used incorrectly.
3. If you have to rest the laptop on your lap, try to keep it balanced on
your knees, with your legs open. Feel the underside of your laptop to
locate the heat source. Make sure that source is not in contact with
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