STATS ARTICLES 2004

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Overheated Laptop Threat
December 13, 2004
Rebecca Goldin
Higher temps are not proof of infertility.

According to the Washington Post and other news organizations, using a laptop may affect a man’s fertility. A study that will appear in the journal Human Reproduction found that laptops reach high temperatures, and men using them on their laps may increase the temperature of their scrotums. This in turn may affect their production of sperm.

Before we accept that laptops “affect fertility”, we might address the more relevant issue than the temperature of body parts: Do men who use laptops have reduced fertility? In other words, are they less able than their desktop-using counterparts to have trouble having children? The study didn’t ask.

The study consisted of measuring the temperature of the scrotum in 29 men before and during the use of the laptop. According to the researchers, a rise in temperature by as little as 1 degrees centigrade is cause for alarm. Indeed, the scrotal temperatures rose by 2.1 degrees Centigrade when the computers were off (but resting on the men’s thighs), due to men simply closing their legs. When the computers were turned on, the temperatures went up further. According to the Post, the lead researcher Yefim Sheynkin said that previous studies confirmed that sperm production is reduced among men with increased scrotum temperatures.

But the issue of whether these effects are long-term or not is controversial, with some studies claiming that these claims are old wives’ tales. In an article published last year in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, the authors contend that there is no connection between reduced sperm count and heat (New evidence of the influence of exogenous and endogenous factors on sperm count in man, vol 110 issue 1, 2003).

In order for the laptop story to be convincing, one needs to show that men who use laptops (on their laps) actually have reduced fertility. This is not measured by temperature, but in babies. Indeed, all sorts of hot objects (baths, hot tubs, closing ones thighs, thermal underwear) “might” affect male fertility and yet, they don’t.

 


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