Whether it's for working on an assignment or watching a movie, sitting on a desk has been forgotten and we’ve all adopted the familiarity of our bed or sofas as the preferred spot for using a laptop on well, our laps. My mom often yells at me to stop using the laptop on my lap saying ‘the radiations will give me skin cancer’ but I usually don't pay attention to it thinking its just one of her crazy and fake ‘WhatsApp theories’. However, my curiosity got the better of me and I started to google on whether using a laptop, the way I've always been using it, on my lap could be doing any harm and the results were shocking. Turns out these are the ways in which using a laptop on your lap could be doing you more harm than good-
What happens when you place your laptop on your lap?
Just like mobile phones, laptops are electronic devices that emit radiowaves and other electronic signals. Laptops are known to emit EMRs ( Electromagnetic radiation) in various frequencies, which are known to be extremely detrimental to the body. When a laptop that emits these frequencies are placed on bare skin, like your lap or legs, the skin and your organs receive an unhealthy dose of these unhealthy EMRs. Prolonged exposure to these EMRs are known to cause a variety of other problems and disorders.
It could cause ‘Toasted Skin Syndrome’
Our laptops generally give off heat and the more it is used, the more heat it gives off. While placing a warm laptop on your lap in a cold room could be somewhat comforting, it could definitely harm your skin. Placing a laptop on your lap, legs or any other exposed bare skin for prolonged periods results in the buildup of heat in it to 44 degrees ! The skin responds to this high temperature by developing persistent redness and pigmentation.
Dermatologist and Dermatosurgeon, Dr Shenaz Z Arsiwala tells Times Of India that this has been reported in medical literature and it is clinically called Erythema Ab Igne. Also called ‘laptop thigh’ or ‘laptop induced dermatosis’, it can be defined as ‘a coarsely reticulated pigmentation which is produced by prolonged exposure to excessive heat without the production of a burn.’ Dr Shreyas Kamath says “People who spend prolonged periods of time studying, reading, or playing games on laptops resting on their upper legs could develop this skin syndrome”.
In fact, repeated skin exposure leads to waste tissues and ultimately irreversible skin degeneration, increasing the risk of developing skin cancer.
Does putting your laptop on your lap cause skin cancer?
While the idea of using your laptop on your bare skin giving you cancer sounds bizarre, turns out it might have an ounce of truth to it. Swiss researchers Drs. Andreas Arnold and Peter Itin from University Hospital Basel concluded that the skin damage caused due to a hot laptop could lead to a certain type of cancer, “prolonged skin inflammation can potentially increase the chances of squamous cell skin cancer, which is more aggressive than the more common form of skin cancer” said dermatologist Anthony J. Mancin, who is in support of this theory.
The heat that is emitted from laptops is described as genotoxic which means it has the ability to damage and mutate DNA and hence cause skin cancers and tumours. This heat coupled with the radiations that are emitted, make laptops dangerous on your bare skin. Since the laptop is normally held close to our reproductive organs, turns out its heat and radiations could also cause fertility issues!
Does putting a laptop on your lap cause infertility?
All electronic devices run on EMRs and even a laptop receives wireless internet signals which radiate EMF or electromagnetic radiation. Using the laptop on your lap or legs could pose a risk to a male’s sperm count and a female’s egg release due to its proximity to the reproductive organs.
Researchers in Argentina found that using the laptop on your legs could damage the DNA of sperm cells due to the harmful nature of the laptop’s ionizing radiation. In fact, even a 2012 study published in the American Society Of Reproductive Medicine concluded that just over 4 hours of exposure to the wifi radiation of a laptop led to decreased sperm motility as well as DNA fragmentation of sperm.
While the radiations are known to be dangerous to a male’s sperm, even high laptop temperatures due to overuse could be detrimental! Dr Yefim Sheynkin conducted a study to generate a causal link between the heat that laptops generate and it’s effects on a man’s scrotum. “The heat factor is a well-known negative impact on fertility, so we wanted to know if the scrotal temperature really increased with laptop use. We found that, with laptop use, the scrotal temperature did increase quite significantly. After just an hour of use, the scrotal temperature jumped about 5 degrees Fahrenheit” she tells TIME.
Radiations cause by emf is also known to cause fertility issues in women. A 2007 study found that the emf radiation emitted by our laptops and even mobiles could seriously mess with a female’s reproductive cycle. In fact, pregnant women are more at risk due to the dangers of radiation on a foetus.
Are pregnant women at risk when using a laptop?
It is no secret that radiations are harmful to pregnant women and their foetus’s, however prolonged use could cause health issues on the foetus due to the harmful nature of laptop radiation. So much so, that when they are born the babies may show signs of congenital and developmental problems. EMF exposure in the womb could also lead to the foetus developing problems of Asthma later on in life. The Environmental and Occupational Health Publication found out that laptops are such a risk to pregnant women that they are exposed to higher amounts of EMRs when using it than those found in close proximity of high-voltage power lines or video screens!
Apart from these serious issues, it could also seriously mess up one’s sleeping habits. Prolonged use of a laptop messes one’s sleeping patterns as well as cause neck and pain due to constantly hunching over the screen. However, work is unavoidable and using the laptop is a necessary evil. The risk of radiation exposure can be decreased by limiting the use of a laptop to a desk or a steady surface (apart from your body). Laptop radiation shields or laptop pads to put on your lap so it does not come into direct contact with your skin, have become increasingly popular as people have started to realise the damage their laptop could do. Although, these findings of laptop radiations causing cancer and infertile are still preliminary and many argue that the radiations are ‘not as strong as Chernobyl’, they are strong enough to cause significant harm to the body. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.