Laptops damage sperm? What wi-fi study shows

It's possible for laptops to cause male infertility - at least temporarily. A hot laptop on the lap can raise the temperature of a guy's scrotum, and high scrotal temperatures could kill sperm. That's why couples who are trying to conceive are often told that the man should avoid hot tubs and switch from briefs to boxers. istockphoto

istockphoto

(CBS) Do laptops reduce men's fertility? There's some evidence that heat from laptops can interfere with sperm production, and now a new study links the electromagnetic radiation emitted by wi-fi-enabled laptops to sperm damage.

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For the study - published in the journal Fertility and Sterility - researchers in Argentina obtained semen from 29 healthy men and measured sperm cells' swimming ability after being exposed to wi-fi radiation from an Internet-connected laptop.

After four hours of exposure, one-quarter of the sperm were no longer swimming, Reuters reported. In comparison, 14 percent of sperm cells that had been kept at the same temperature but not exposed to wi-fi were no longer swimming. What's more, DNA damage was more common in the wi-fi sperm than in the "control" sperm.

The researchers offered a blunt assessment of their finding, writing in the study's conclusion that "We speculate that keeping a laptop connected wirelessly to the internet on the lap near the testes may result in decreased male fertility."

But other experts weren't so sure.

"This is not real-life biology," Dr. Robert Oates, president of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, told Reuters. "This is a completely artificial setting. It's is scientifically interesting, but to me it doesn't have any human biological relevance."

The researchers called for more research to prove their speculation, adding that it wasn't clear that the sperm damage would be seen with all laptops.

One thing's for certain - infertility is a common problem. About 15 percent of couples are infertile, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, and roughly one-third of the time the problem lies solely with the man.

Doctors have identified numerous potential causes of male infertility. These include infections, hormone imbalances, smoking, vitamin deficiency, and certain medications. Many cases are associated with varicocele, a surgically correctable condition in which blood vessels in the scrotum impair sperm production by raising the temperature of the testicles.

The Mayo Clinic has more on male infertility.

  • David W Freeman

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