The news of a paper claiming that for men using a lap-top on your lap might reduce fertility have been widely disseminated. If you missed the story, you can read it at Reuters, MSNBC, BBC, or almost any other news outlet. Scicurious at Neurotic Physiology took a close look at the paper and examines the details.
Here is the setup.
So in this case they wanted to see if laptops, which emit electromagnetic frequencies, particularly when connected to the internet via Wi Fi, harmed male fertility. They took 29 dudes, and had them jack off into 29 cups (at least, I really hope they at least got their own cups and a nice private spot, unless, you know, you’re in to public spots). They took the resulting semen and tested it via swim-up method for the best and brightest sperm (the swim up method is simple. Put sperm in the appropriate liquid, and the good ones will, obviously, swim up. Ratios of how many swim up vs how many don’t are often used to assess fertility at first pass).
They then took the sperm, split each sample into two dishes, and set one dish (after covering it with parafilm because you probably don’t want to accidentally spill that) under a laptop (Toshiba) which was actively downloading something via wireless. The sperm sample sat like that for 4 hours. The other sperm dish was placed on a table at room temperature. They then looked to see what the sperm were like. A good thing about this study is they DID control for heat, both sets of sperm were kept at a constant 25 degrees Celsius by air conditioning (which doesn’t mimic a real life condition, but it DOES take away the variable of heat from the measure of electromagnetic frequency, which is often an issue in these studies).
Their results were graphed.
The graph on the left shows the percentage of dead sperm. Equal in the tabletop and laptop exposed groups. The graph on the right shows three things: progressive motility, nonprogressive motility, and immobile sperm. They saw a decrease in progressive motility and an increase in immobile sperm in the laptop group. So it looks like the laptop didn’t kill the sperm, they just didn’t swim as well.
So, the results demonstrate that sperm in a jar don’t swim as well after being placed under a wi-fi connected laptop for for four hours when compared to sperm help at the same temperature. One of the things they did not do was place sperm in the vicinity of a laptop that was not near a source of wi-fi. I suppose this would have had to be in a Faraday Cage or under a wi-fi belly blanket.
This is an interesting study and MAY be related to actual fertility. However it is important not to draw that conclusion from this paper. There are a lot of factors that are involved in sperm motility and fertility, one of which may be scrotal temperature. This is the first study to examine wi-fi and sperm motility. This is an in vitro study that could have used better controls, so it should not have too much importance placed on it. It does suggest that more study would be appropriate, and if you are currently trying to conceive, don’t use your lap-top on your lap for extended periods. Otherwise, Don’t Panic.
Scicurious ends with a bit of a sarcastic comment that sums up the paper quite nicely.
So what does this story tell you? Don’t jack off on your laptop and leave it sitting there. At least not if you want to use the sperm later.
A News report from ABC shows one of the very real dangers of the use of laptops.
The unfortunate thing about this study and its widespread dissemination is that it will undoubtedly be used as more scaremongering by the anti-wi-fi crowd to remove the technology from public areas.