Add laptop computers to the list of modern appliances (including cell phones and electric blankets) that have been linked to fertility problems in men.
Yefim Sheynkin, M.D., associate professor in the department of urology, and director of male infertility and microsurgery, at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, found 29 brave volunteers willing to have their scrotal temperature measured before and after they worked with a toasty laptop perched over their testes. The results: Because of the clenched-thigh position common among laptop users and the heat generated by the laptop itself, scrotal temperatures were pushed skyward by an average of 2.8 degrees Centigrade (about 5 degrees Fahrenheit). And according to Dr. Sheynkin, a series of studies over the last sixty-plus years have shown that higher scrotal temperatures harm male fertility and sperm production.
No doubt a host of companies will now rush forward with products to save men from slowly roasting their sperm. In addition to the standard laptop desks, for instance, there’s the Chill Pak, a freezable mat developed by former X-Files actor Dean Haglund to keep laptop computers running more efficiently…which also happens to put some chilly space between laptop and lap (www.chillpak.com, $19.95). Such devices seem to hold the promise of cool relief, but Dr. Sheynkin cautions that only scientific studies will show whether the products help preserve fertility.
Dr. Sheynkin plans further laptop studies to specifically look at changes in sperm quality in addition to changes in temperature. Until the results are in, he advises men–especially young men of reproductive age–to try to place their laptop computers on some other surface (like a desk or table) rather than directly on their laps. “We’re not trying to alarm the public,” says Sheynkin. We can’t live without our laptop computers, but a certain segment of the male population needs to be cautious or in 10 to 15 years some of them may find out they have problems with fertility.”