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Laptops and WiFi: A Concern for Sperm and Male Fertility

Male infertility may be caused by exposure to harmful levels of EMF radiation generated by repeated laptop use.
Male infertility may be caused by exposure to harmful levels of EMF radiation generated by repeated laptop use.

If you are looking to start a family or want to have children at one point in your life, you might want to re-think putting your laptop on your lap.

I know, it seems like the name laptop implies you should, in fact, be using it on your lap. But new research is showing that we should be trying to distance ourselves from this technology.

This is due to the Electromagnetic Fields, or EMFs, that are being emitted by all electronic devices, including laptops. This is a low-energy form of radiation that can interfere with and damage cells and processes in your body after extended exposure, leading to adverse health effects. one of them being male fertility.

Male infertility is just one biological effect associated with extended Laptop and WiFi use. Male infertility is a common concern today, affecting about 1 in 20 adults.

In most cases of infertility, the male produces a sufficient number of sperm to achieve fertilization, however due to defects in the sperm, conception is prevented.

Thus, much scientific and medical attention in the past decade has focused on environmental and genetic factors that may contribute to male infertility in this way. Evidence has now come to light that frequent exposure to electromagnetic radiation produced by laptops causes damage to sperm.

WiFi and Fertility Research

Originally, the investigations suggested that one of the environmental factors that contributed to the DNA damage in human sperm was increased exposure to Radio Frequency (RF) electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile phones.

Years of collaborative work indicate that there is indeed a negative correlation between mobile phone usage and the various attributes associated with semen quality, especially motility.

Mice studies indicated that there was internal damage to organelles within the sperm cell from radiation exposure. More recently, in humans, research has confirmed that the duration of exposure correlates with defects in sperm count, motility, viability, and normal morphology.

This research has led to further areas of study with the radiation emitted from other common electronic devices.

Increasingly, research is showing that laptop computer use, especially in conjunction with wireless network connections or WiFi may be associated with a decrease to sperm motility and an increase in sperm DNA damage.

Motility enables the sperm to swim to its intended target, the egg. Intact DNA allows the sperm to produce viable offspring. Obviously, sperm need both in order to successfully impregnate a healthy egg. The exposure to laptop radiation and WiFi has caused measurable changes to the integrity of human sperm.

Figure 1. After prolonged exposure to electromagnetic radiation, sperm exhibits many unfavorable changes. Credit: The Korean Society for Reproductive Medicine
After prolonged exposure to electromagnetic radiation, sperm exhibits several unfavorable changes. Credit: The Korean Society for Reproductive Medicine

The medical journal Fertility and Sterility recently published a laptop radiation study in which Argentinian scientists researched the effect laptop Radio Frequency (RF) radiation and WiFi on human male sperm.

In their study, one group of sperm samples from healthy men were placed under a laptop connected to the internet via WiFi. The second group was used as a control and incubated under the same conditions without being exposed to the laptop.

Testing was conducted over a four hour period and produced the following results:

  • 25% of the sperm was no longer active compared to 14% from sperm samples stored at the same temperature over the same time period and away from the computer.
  • 9% of the sperm showed DNA damage, 3x the damage experienced by the comparison samples.

Based on the testing, the scientists concluded that WiFi and/or Radio Frequency (RF) laptop radiation is harmful to sperm, as significant decreases in sperm mobility and DNA fragmentation was observed

In a Reuters news article from November 2011, it stated a study revealed that radiation from cell phones creates feeble sperm in the lab. A urologist noted that a laptop balanced on his knees could crank up scrotum temperatures to unsafe levels.

In a separate South Korean journal, a review of recent research on sperm exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMF) was conducted. Over seventy publications indicated that traits associated with reproductive health were reported to be altered by EMF.

For instance: Rats exposed to EMF for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week at 900 MHz were reported to have experienced testicular tissue damage. This EMF dose is high for a rat to expedite results of effects from long-term exposure, yet it is similar to levels that a human might be exposed to in their daily life from cell phones or laptops.

In rats, increased exposure to Radio Frequency EMF at 2,450 MHz resulted in the re-arrangement of DNA sequence and the fragmentation of DNA in their testis. Human sperm was also studied and found to have similar deleterious effects when exposed to undue radiation.

Researchers were hoping to understand the effect of Radio Frequency (RF) electromagnetic waves generated by laptops connected by wireless networks. Experts have evaluated the original researchers’ work to offer their opinions, noting the increasing public concern over increased exposure to electronic devices in modern day.

Laptop radiation can be harmful to fertility

Are Laptops Harmful?

Generally, reviewers agree that multiple in-vitro studies have, in fact, found significant decreases in sperm motility and viability caused by laptop-type radiation.

Independent analysts believe more research is needed to fully understand the effect radiation has on male reproductive fertility. Some scientists are still skeptical that there is a direct association.

Dr. Robert Oates, president of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology doesn’t believe laptops are a significant threat to male reproductive health.

Referring to the Argentinian study he says, “This is not real-life biology, this is a completely artificial setting,” He goes on further to say, “It is scientifically interesting, but to me it doesn’t have any human biological relevance.” 

Protecting Yourself

Despite the controversy, laptop and WiFi exposure is considered by many as a public health issue.

Because of the growing body of research all pointing in the same direction; it is considered advisable to avoid direct exposure to laptop radiation if you are concerned about your fertility.

Minimizing direct exposure to a laptop and using a laptop shield may be helpful in preventing unnecessary reproductive complications.

Just as cell phones are not advised to be used too close to the body, close-contact laptop use should also be considered under advisement until evidence proves otherwise. Be safe in your use of electronic devices.

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Daniel T. DeBaun

Daniel T. DeBaun is an internationally recognized and influential expert in Electromagnetic Radiation (EMF) and shielding electronic emissions, with a particular focus on the effect of exposure from mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and cell phones. Daniel’s concern regarding the health impact of electronic radiation emissions grew from over 30 years of engineering experience in the telecommunications industry, where he held a variety of leadership and executive positions at Bell Labs, AT&T, SAIC and Telcordia. Daniel is co-author of recent bestseller, Radiation Nation: The Fallout of Modern Technology, a complete guide to EMF radiation safety and protection. Daniel is also a highly regarded industry consultant, speaker as well as frequent guest national radio and television programs discussing EMF health issues.