Cell phones are “possibly carcinogenic”? Potentially brain-cancer-causing? Comparable to pesticides and the stuff your car spits out? So sayeth the World Health Organization? The reputable science-minded subsidiary of the United Nations?
Bummer. Thank goodness I use ear buds, and don’t talk on the phone much—though when on the go, I do tote my iPhone in my pants pocket, where it’s usually pressed flush against my leg. So much for keeping the phone “as far as possible” from my body. Again, thank goodness I’m not “on the go” much.
(More on TIME.com: Smartphone Radiation: The 10 Highest and 10 Lowest Emitters)
My laptop’s a different story. Since I started writing full-time in late 2005, I’ve held laptops on my lap daily. And for the past eight months, I’ve been trying to have a kid. No luck so far, but then—all other things being equal—they say the odds of conception are still just one in four each month. I don’t blame my laptop, but I’m done taking chances. I recently opted for one of those “chill pad” coolers, to hold the machine an inch or so off my legs, and cool the all-aluminum frame—one guess what kind of laptop I own—with a fan.
I know, the WHO’s talking about cell phones, not laptops. No one at the WHO said laptops cause cancer (not even “potentially”). But aren’t cell phones just palm-sized computers? We’ve heard for years cell phones might pose at least some sort of risk, and now this. Should we therefore be slightly more worried about the much larger and electronically ultra-complex objects we’re resting on our laps?
Let’s talk about the differences first. Laptops emit much lower electromagnetic field energy than mobile phones. That’s a quantifiable fact. EMF levels generated by Wi-Fi devices are also much lower than levels emitted by cellphones, so the argument that Wi-Fi signals might scramble your brain (among other things) isn’t currently science-supported. In short, laptops and mobile phones are different beasts entirely as far as radiation goes.
That said, the science does suggest that the heat generated by laptops can cause serious problems, from singed skin to male fertility problems. According to Dr. Mark Perloe, medical director at Georgia Reproductive Specialists: “Men who sit with a laptop directly on their laps create a temperature rise of up to five-degrees in their testicles. A one-degree rise for longer than 20 minutes drops sperm activity by more than 40 percent. You damage the DNA, affecting fertility and increasing the likelihood of a miscarriage.”
So yes, I’ve probably done myself no favors setting a laptop flush against my legs for upwards of eight to 10 hours a day, at least five days a week. I keep the ambient temperature in my house around 75F during the summer, but the sunlight sneaks in through my office windows, and who wants to close the blinds and work hours on end in a cave? Without a cooling pad, my laptop’s simply hotter between May and September.
What to do? Use a cooling pad. Mine has a fan with a USB cable that’s powered off a standard USB port. Raise your laptop off your lap at least an inch (EMF radiation drops off dramatically in that initial jump from “direct contact”). Stick it on a table. Or if you prefer sitting in a chair as I do, get one of those crosswise surfaces that braces on either chair arm, like the one film critic Roger Ebert’s using in the second picture of this slideshow. Spread the word.
And don’t worry. At least not yet. Maybe the other shoe’s going to drop. Maybe it won’t. Just keep yourself cool, and—especially if you’re a guy—keep that mobile mass of wires, plastic, and metal elevated.
(via AOL Health)