If you’re one of those guys who spend hours trawling the internet or working with a laptop balanced on your knees, you might be in for a nasty surprise. If you value the quality of your sperm and are planning to have kids, that is.
US researchers have recently found that using laptops the way their designed to be used – on your lap – causes the temperature in a man’s testicles to rise to levels that are potentially detrimental to sperm production. Their study, Protection from scrotal hyperthermia in laptop computer users was published in a scientific journal with the bitter-sweet title Fertility and Sterility in June.
Great balls of fire
Contrary to popular believe, God did not put your balls in the flight path of cricket balls, tennis balls, soccer balls and various other high-speed projectiles as a cynical punishment for being a man. No, the function of the scrotum is to keep the testicles at a temperature that is a few degrees cooler than that inside the body, which turns out to be important for the sperm production process.
Research has shown that warming the scrotum by more than 1oC is sufficient to cause damage to sperm cells. While no scientific investigations have been done that connect the use of laptops directly to infertility in men, the new study found that having a laptop on your knees for an hour can raise testicle temperature by as much as 2.5oC and that can’t be good. In case you’re wondering, the scientists monitored thermometers hooked to the scrotums of 29 healthy men ranging in age from 29 to 35 while they balanced a laptop on their knees.
According to lead researcher, Dr Yefim Sheynkin, a urologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, scrotal temperatures breached safe levels within 10 to 15 minutes without the men even noticing. While he doesn’t blame laptops for infertility, he warns that “frequent use might contribute to reproductive problems”.
Keep it cool
Even when they used a lap-pad or a blanket under the laptop, the men’s scrotums overheated relatively quickly. “You can put a pillow beneath your computer and it still won’t protect you,” says Sheynkin. “No matter what you do, even with your legs spread wide apart, the temperature is still going to be higher than what we call safe.”
The take-home message: Only use your laptop on your actual lap for very short periods – a few minutes – at a time. Rather find a desk or a table to rest it on if you’re planning to work for extended periods.
(Andrew Luyt, Health24, November 2010)