By Andrew Weil MD, March 29, 2011  —  If you or a loved one has wondered if the heat that radiates from a laptop to your lap could have health consequences, you aren’t alone. Investigators at the State University of New York at Stony Brook carried out and published (in the journal Fertility and Sterility online Nov. 3, 2010) a study of 29 young men and how laptop heat affected their scrotal temperatures. (An increase in scrotal temperature by more than one degree Celsius [1.8 degrees Fahrenheit] can have damaging effects on sperm quality.)

The study showed that scrotal temperature increased within 10 to 15 minutes of holding a laptop computer on the lap; after an hour of this, scrotal temperature rose by 2.5 C – even when the men placed a lap pad under the computer.

Overheated testicles can be caused by:

  • Sitting with legs spread wide and a laptop computer placed on the lap, with or without a lap pad (with the lap pad, scrotal temperature will remain cooler for a while, but may edge up in less than 30 minutes)
  • Prolonged bicycling
  • Frequent use of saunas or hot tubs

However, a laptop is not the greatest threat to male fertility – the major causes are defects in reproductive anatomy or physiology, such as a damaged vas deferens (the tube that carries sperm from the testes), disease (including sexually transmitted diseases), hormonal disorders and chemotherapy. In addition to heat, environmental exposures to toxins and some chemicals can impair sperm production. But if you are trying to conceive, keep the laptop on a table or desk – not in the lap – just to be safe.

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