Study: Laptop heat a threat to fertility

University researchers say heat generated from laptops can put sperm count at risk.

Dawn Kawamoto Former Staff writer, CNET News
Dawn Kawamoto covered enterprise security and financial news relating to technology for CNET News.
Dawn Kawamoto
2 min read
Laptop or fertility, which would you choose?

A study by State University of New York researchers says heat generated from laptops can significantly elevate the temperature of the scrotum, potentially putting sperm count at risk.

And for the growing segment of the working world that relies on laptops, a dilemma may emerge on whether to be productive at work or in the bedroom.

"Heat from laptops is very localized, with exposure repeated often, depending on work use."
--Dr. Yefim Sheynkin

"An elevation in heat has been known for years to cause fertility problems...and the heat from laptops is very localized, with exposure repeated often, depending on work use," said Dr. Yefim Sheynkin, who led the research team behind the study.

The study, which included more than two dozen men ages 21 to 35, found that the sitting position required to balance a laptop can raise scrotum temperature by as much as 2.1 degrees Celsius, Sheynkin said. Heat from the laptop itself can raise the temperature by another 0.7 C, bringing the potential total increase to 2.8 C.

"Because our study found the scrotum temperature can go up significantly, we plan to take a more in-depth look at how laptop use can directly affect sperm production and quality," Sheynkin said, adding that he hopes to undertake the new project sometime next year.

European fertility studies, meanwhile, have shown that in general, an increase in scrotum temperature by 1 C can reduce sperm count by as much as 40 percent, Sheynkin said.

Heat generated from laptops is nothing new. A couple of cases have emerged over the years of laptops catching fire due to defective batteries or faulty AC adapters. Laptop users have been known to use pillows, books or other items on their laps to buffer the heat emitted from portable computers.

But before hardware makers rush out to develop new laptop peripherals designed to protect fertility, Sheynkin has a word of caution.

"Devices or pads to protect the scrotum are not a bad idea, but these would need to be investigated and tested before putting out just another gadget for people to use," Sheynkin said. "Depending on the position people use to balance the laptop and how close their thighs are, the scrotum temperature can still go up."