Does Laptop Wi-Fi Damage Sperm, Lower Fertility in Men?
Laptop computers are being studied in health circles because of their possible impact on fertility, particularly in men. Previous studies looked at the laptop as a heat source, raising the temperature of the scrotum and possibly damaging sperm in the process. A new study, conducted by Argentinian researchers at Nascentis Medicina Reproductiva, finds that another possible culprit to male infertility may be the Wi-Fi signal in their laptops.
Conrado Avendano MS and colleagues obtained semen samples from 29 healthy men and placed a few drops under a laptop connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi. After four hours, a quarter of the sperm showed a “significant decrease in progressive sperm motility,” compared to just 14% from semen samples stored at the same temperature away from the computer. This means that the sperm exposed to the signal were less capable of moving toward an egg to fertilize it.
In addition, nine percent of the sperm samples showed DNA damage, three-fold more than the comparison samples.
Avendano suspects the culprit is electromagnetic radiation generated during wireless communication. Similar studies linking EMR and male infertility have been conducted using cellphones. A study published earlier this year by Austrian researchers found that men who used cell phones have lower quality sperm than those who do not.
With cell phones, electromagnetic waves appear to affect male hormone levels, increasing the level of testosterone circulating through the body. The men also had lower levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) which is an important reproductive hormone secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain.
While Avendano’s trial does not conclusively blame the sperm damage to EMR, a separate test performed while a laptop was on, but not connected to Wi-Fi, showed negligible EM radiation from the machine alone.
Another limitation to the study, notes Dr. Robert Oates, the President of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, is that the tests were conducted in a lab, and not in a biological setting. “It is scientifically interesting,” he said, “but to me it doesn’t have any human biological relevance.”
Dermatologists recommend using a pad or heat shield under the laptop if you must hold it in your lap, which may help protect the body from the heat source as well as EM radiation.
Avendano C MS, Mata A MS, et al. “Use of laptop computers connected to internet through Wi-Fi decreases human sperm motility and increases sperm DNA fragmentation” Fertility and Sterility, Available online 23 November 2011, ISSN 0015-0282, 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.10.012. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028211026781)
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