Rendered Sterile By Laptop

July 25, 2010

Is your partner attached to his laptop computer? This could be the reason you're having trouble getting pregnant. That is, aside from the fact that he's playing on Facebook instead of making love to you. Men who spend several hours a day using laptops may impair their ability to father children.

A small study found that a combination of factors related to repetitive laptop use could impair a man's future fertility. Men must clench their legs close together to keep the computers on their laps and the processor gives off a great deal of heat right in the area of the scrotum. During laptop use, scrotal temperature can rise by up to 2.8 degrees Celsius.

This research was carried out at Stony Brook's State University of New York. The author of this study, Yefim Sheynkin, hopes to continue to explore the impact of laptop use on male fertility and sperm quality.

Up until now, scientists have been able to document with some precision the link between exposing the testicles to high temperatures and infertility. But it was thought that the observed effects of such heat exposure were only transitory. As a result, the male half of a couple trying to conceive is often advised not to take very hot baths, use a sauna, or wear tight pants. All of these practices tend to elevate the temperature of the testicles.

Constant Use

But Sheynkin wants to add laptop computer use to that list of ill-advised behaviors for men who want to father children. Laptop use is something that has become a regular and constant feature of everyday life. The fact that laptops are used for a large part of the day, every day, distinguishes laptop usage from other behaviors that raise the heat of the scrotum. Long-term exposure of the testicles to this heat source, as opposed to a 20 minute bath, say, may cause long-term damage to male fertility. Sheynkin fears that an entire generation of men may be risking their ability to procreate.

Hot Topic

Fertility expert Marc Goldstein of Cornell University's Weill Medical College in New York comments that Sheynkin is making good sense. No one thought about the effects of sitting around for hours every day with a heat-producing computer on one's lap. Goldstein calls this, "a very hot topic." Goldstein and Sheynkin have worked together on other research projects, though Goldstein was not a part of the laptop/male fertility study.

There has been one previous report on heat generated by laptops and the effect on male reproductive organs. The report appeared in The Lancet in 2002 and described an anecdote in which a scientist was said to have sustained burns to his penis and scrotum during laptop computer use.  

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