Healthcare Technology Featured Article

November 30, 2011

Want a Baby? Men, Keep Your Laptops on Your Desk



OK. So the jury’s still out on whether cell phones give us brain tumors. But did you know something you use every day might do something even worse? If you’re a man and thinking of having a child anytime soon, make sure your laptop’s on the desk, not in your lap.

Trevor Mogg at Digital Trends reports that a study done by U.S. and Argentinian researchers has found that Wi-Fi switched on could harm sperm.

Previous studies on laptops and male infertility have focused on the heat generated by the machines, according to the London Daily Mail. But this new finding is something scientists feel men should know and appropriately address, too.

In an experiment, sperm samples from donors were separated into two pots, a BBC report explained, according to Mogg. One was placed close to a laptop with the Wi-Fi function turned on for four hours, while the other sample was placed nearby, except without a laptop present.

At the end of the experiment, the scientists found that a quarter of the sperm left with the laptop had begun swimming sluggishly, or not at all, and had undergone changes in their genetic code. Fertility is reliant upon the ability of sperm to move freely and quickly, according to the Mayo Clinic.

For the sperm without the laptop, the figure – 14 percent – is still worrisome but not so much, the scientists felt, according to Mogg’s story.

“The findings fuel anxiety for the millions of men who keep a number of Wi-Fi-enabled devices on their laps, in their pockets  and in close proximity to their nether regions,” Carrie Gann reports at abcnews.com.

But maybe it’s not the Wi-Fi or the heat. While the scientists acknowledge that heat indeed can damage sperm (remember the hot tub warnings?), they believe it’s not the culprit here, Mogg writes. Instead, they believe electromagnetic radiation may be the problem.

 “Our data suggest that the use of a laptop computer wirelessly connected to the internet and positioned near the male reproductive organs may decrease human sperm quality,” the scientists wrote in their report in Fertility and Sterility Journal, where the study was published.

But not everyone agrees with the researchers’ conclusions. “This is not real-life biology, this is a completely artificial setting. It is scientifically interesting, but to me it doesn’t have any human biological relevance,” Robert Oates, president of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, told Reuters, Mogg writes.



Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell




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