15 November 2010
ByAppeared in BioNews 584
A study has suggested that to prevent potential damage to their fertility men should sit with their legs separated when using laptops placed on their legs. In an article published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, data on scrotal temperature during laptop use suggests that the use of a laptop pad, a device used to transfer heat generated by laptops away from the human body, may be insufficient to avoid temperatures at which sperm could become damaged.
Researchers at the Department of Urology and the Department of Applied Mathematics at the State University of New York identified the potential for rapid hyperthermia (over-heating) among male laptop users and explored potential means of reducing the risk posed. The conclusion drawn was that prevention of scrotal hyperthermia was not presently feasible but that it may be reduced in degree by means of adopting a 'modified sitting position'
While all of the twenty-nine young men studied experienced temperature elevation of between 1.4 and 2.3 °C (degrees celsius), those who sat with their knees at a 70 degree angle demonstrated temperatures at the lower end of the range. Though the raised temperature was not generally noticed by the participants, for those with their legs together it took only ten to 15 minutes before the temperature exceeded normal levels.
For those with their legs apart, this doubled to an average of 28 minutes. The testes are maintained at a temperature generally a couple of degrees cooler than the rest of the human body and earlier research suggests that warming the scrotum by as little as one degree may present a risk of damage to sperm
Dr Yefim Shynkin, who led the study, believes that scrotal hyperthermia induced by even modest laptop use may lead to increased risks of infertility. While he advocates not only a wide sitting stance and 'significantly shorter use' of laptop computers, he makes clear that short of using a desk - 'No matter what you do, even with the legs spread wide apart, the temperature is still going to be higher than what we call safe'.