Surfing the internet on a laptop that is connected with wireless technology can damage sperm counts, a study suggests.
By Andrew Hough
Researchers discovered a personal computer using wi-fi that is placed near male reproductive organs reduced sperm quality and the chances of men experiencing fatherhood.
Scientists found sperm placed under a laptop that used wireless technology suffered more damage than specimens kept at the same temperature but away from a wi-fi signal.
The bench side tests undertaken by the American and Argentinian team showed sperm were less able to swim and had irreversible changes in the genetic code.
Experts suggested the findings, published in this month’s Fertility and Sterility journal, were caused by the electromagnetic radiation emitted by wireless communication that damages semen.
But the team also cautioned that the results were carried out in an artificial setting and said men should not overly worry just yet. In the study, scientists found a quarter of the sperm placed next to a laptop for just a few hours were killed.
Evidence of DNA damage was also found in the tests undertaken by the team from the Nascentis Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Cordoba, Argentina and and the Eastern Virginia Medical School.
In comparison, sperm that was stored at the same temperature but away from a laptop showed a smaller drop in mobility and a significant reduction in DNA damage.
Meanwhile, semen placed under the computer without the wi-fi connected did not experience significant levels of sperm damage.
“Our data suggest that the use of a laptop computer wirelessly connected to the internet and positioned near the male reproductive organs may decrease human sperm quality,” said Dr Conrado Avendano, who led the study.
“At present we do not know whether this effect is induced by all laptop computers connected by Wi-Fi to the internet or what use conditions heighten this effect.”
The findings differ from previous studies because fears over links between infertility and laptops have focused on heat emitted by the devices.
In the latest study, researchers took sperm specimens from 29 healthy men, aged 26 to 45.
Each donor sample was separated out into two pots and either placed under a laptop using wireless technology or away from the computer.
Scientists then used the laptop to download information from the internet for four hours.
They found that 25 per cent of the sperm under the laptop had stopped moving and nine per cent showed DNA damage.
By comparison, just 14 per cent of samples kept away from the wi-fi stopped moving while just three per cent suffered DNA damage.
Dr Avendano stressed the results did not necessarily mean the same would occur in a real-life setting, adding that men should not unduly worry.
But he recommended more research be undertaken. Nonetheless the findings will fuel concerns raised by a few other research teams.
Some have found that radiation from mobile phones creates feeble sperm in a laboratory setting.
Last year urologists also described how a man’s sitting with a laptop balanced on his knees can increase the temperature of his genital areas to levels that can damage sperm.