Here’s Why Working With Your Laptop Too Close To Your Body May Pose A Real Risk To Your Health

Thanks to advancements in computer technology, more and more people have access to laptops today. And due to these devices’ relatively small size, some individuals prefer to place laptops on their laps while using them. If you’re of that mindset, though, experts in the field believe that you could be putting your health in danger.

In the past, computer usage was restricted to desktop devices both at home and at work. That’s certainly not the case right now, of course, as we have access to a number of different machines, including laptops. And with regards to the latter, their very name suggests that they’re made to fit on to a person’s lap.

As we mentioned earlier, laptops aren’t particularly large, and they’re also quite light to carry. Due to this, you might feel encouraged to use your legs instead of a standard desk to support them. In addition, the easy storage and quickness of the machines can make them more desirable than a desktop computer for many people.

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Keeping that in mind, there’s a good chance that those who work in sectors such as business and education will utilize a laptop. Students are in a similar position, too, as the accessibility can make their lives a lot simpler. And there’s something else to consider with regard to the devices’ size.

Indeed, working hours can be cranked up thanks to laptops. For instance, if you need to complete something before or after your shift, you could just pull the machine out on your commute. And once you get home, you’re free to work from whatever room you want, taking the device with you.

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Despite all of those advantages, though, there could be some serious downsides to using laptops on a regular basis, especially away from a desk. Over the past few years, experts have taken a closer look at how the portable computers might be harming our health. And during that time, they haven’t been shy in sharing their findings.

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Those findings have shown that a broad range of health risks are associated with laptop use. One of the issues can be tied back to our posture during work hours. After all, our bodies are positioned in a certain way when we’re staring at the portable device.

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An osteopath named Emma Lipson shed a little more light on this problem in October 2017. She wrote a blog post on the subject for the Feel Better Osteopathy website at the time. And in the article, Lipson broke down what happens to a person’s body while they work on a laptop.

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“We position our head so that our eyes are in the best position to see the [laptop] screen.” Lipson wrote. “If a screen is lower than eye level, we move our head down and forward so our eyes are optimally positioned. This causes a hunched posture which leads to tight muscles at the front of the neck and chest.”

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“[A hunched posture] also reduces the naturally supportive curves in our necks and lower backs,” Lipson added. “When people are absorbed in work, they’re usually completely unaware of how they are sitting. Our bodies tend to be very good at accommodating and ignoring poor posture, and it’s usually only after prolonged laptop use that neck and back pain comes on.”

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However, a stiff neck could be the least of your concerns if the laptop starts to overheat. Like any other computer, the portable device can become pretty warm when it’s left on for a certain amount of time. And by keeping it on your lap, you run the risk of burning the surrounding skin.

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Rachel Hudson could certainly attest to that, and she spoke to the WCPO-TV website in April 2017. She was studying at university at the time and did some work on her laptop. And the Hillsboro, Ohio, resident then took a nap while the device was still placed on her legs.

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“I happened to be exhausted, and I fell asleep for a little while,” Hudson recalled. “And when I woke up, I realized I was in pain, and where my laptop had been resting on my leg, it gave me a second-degree burn and it was already blistering. I was shocked that my laptop was capable of doing that much damage.”

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As a result, Hudson needed to visit a nearby medical facility the following day when she saw how bad the damage was. This wasn’t an isolated incident, though, as a previous research project from Pediatrics revealed that laptops were capable of causing “toasted skin syndrome.” That study was published back in 2010.

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The proprietor of a computer store also shared his thoughts on this topic after Hudson was burned. Cleo Allen explained how something like that could happen during an interview with the WCPO-TV website. According to him, laptops build up more heat when they can’t access fresh air in the room.

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“We’ve definitely seen [laptops that are] hot enough to burn people,” Allen told the news website. “The unit needs to be able to pull air in and push the hot air out, so it can keep it cool.” By resting the device on your legs, though, you could be hampering that important function.

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But away from that, there’s another potential issue to keep in mind when you place a laptop on your lap. As reported by the Shield Your Body website, the machines also give off electromagnetic radiation, otherwise known as EMF. To be more specific, it’s believed that the devices discharge a couple of variations.

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The first of those is referred to as radio frequency radiation (RF). According to the website, wireless products emit this kind of EMF. In the case of laptops, their Bluetooth and wi-fi functions are grouped into the RF category. As for the second type, that’s called low frequency radiation (ELF).

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Shield Your Body noted that laptops give off ELF as soon as you switch them on. Moreover, when you connect the computer to an electronic charger, the AC power causes extra radiation to leak out. The same thing happens when you boost your cell phone battery, although there are a few differences.

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For instance, the website suggested that a laptop will usually undergo more usage while it’s charging than your phone would. And the former gives off greater levels of ELF generally anyway. Regarding the RF readings, though, cell phones are normally ahead of portable computers, unless the device is used for activities such as watching online content.

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So with that in mind, Shield Your Body shared some shocking information about the dangers of EMF. According to the website, the World Health Organization categorizes ELF and RF radiation as “Class 2B carcinogens.” That means that you could potentially develop cancer in the future if you’re exposed to certain levels.

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In addition to that, a research project on the subject of EMF exposure was published in the Fertility and Stability journal in 2011. In that report, 29 guys between the ages of 26 and 45 submitted samples of their semen. Afterwards, the scientists working on the paper divided them into groups.

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Some of the sperm samples had been exposed to a laptop using wi-fi, for example. Once the test concluded, the experts noted that one-quarter of the semen from these samples had come to a standstill. Alongside that, nine percent of the specimens now displayed genetic impairments, too.

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That came after four hours’ worth of exposure to the laptop. As for the other samples, the stats were much lower. Indeed, the paper noted that 14 percent of that sperm lost its mobility over the same timeframe. And on top of that, only three percent showed genetic impairments.

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Speaking to the Daily Mail newspaper in December 2011, the project chief shared his reaction to the findings. “Our data suggests that the use of a laptop computer wirelessly connected to the internet, and positioned near the male reproductive organs, may decrease human sperm quality,” Conrado Avendano stated. “At present we don’t know whether this effect is induced by all laptop computers.”

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But a physician named Robert Oates wasn’t so sure about the results. Oates, who heads the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, informed Reuters Health, “This is not real-life biology. This is a completely artificial setting. It is scientifically interesting, but to me it doesn’t have any human biological relevance.”

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Around four years before that project, another experiment was conducted using EMF radiation. On that occasion, though, the focus was on women’s reproductive systems. Despite recording some concerning results while using mice as test subjects, the human trials from 2012 nonetheless suggested that there wasn’t an issue. The Clinical and Experimental Reproductive Medicine journal published the results of that investigation.

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Meanwhile, another researcher has shown a continued interest in the apparent link between laptops and male infertility. His name is Dr. Yefim Sheynkin, and he worked on a paper back in 2005 that focused on the temperatures of the portable devices. Sheynkin then took part in a second project six years later, which revealed that guys shouldn’t close their legs when seated.

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Speaking to Time magazine in September 2017, Sheynkin said, “The heat factor is a well-known negative impact on fertility, so we wanted to know if scrotal temperature really increased with laptop use. We found that, with laptop use, scrotal temperature did increase quite significantly.” From there, he referred back to the second study.

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Sheynkin added, “So there are two factors here: the heat produced by the laptop and the rising temperature from having the legs together.” If you’re wondering what the previous rise in temperature was from the 2005 paper, it stood at 5° F. The jump came from a simple 60-minute spell on the computer.

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However, another expert wanted to make something clear about Sheynkin’s findings. The man in question was Dr. Ajay Nangia, who at the time plied his trade at the University of Kansas Health System. He told USA Today that the studies didn’t verify that a man could become infertile due to a laptop’s heat.

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“What the paper actually said was there was an increase of temperature in the groin area of the men that had the laptops on their laps,” Nangia stated. “All they did was suggest that it could affect sperm count. [That means] there was no proof that the men that had the laptops on their laps actually had a decline in sperm count.”

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Elsewhere, Dr. Jesse Mills offered his perspective on the subject while speaking to Time. Mills, who worked at The Men’s Clinic at UCLA, made an interesting point about men’s reproductive organs. He said, “Human males have testicles outside our bodies for a reason. Our testicles like to be at least two degrees cooler than the rest of our body.”

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“Anything that affects [the testicles’] temperature can affect fertility,” Mills added. “[And] as we’re getting more technologically advanced, we’re growing more and more sedentary. Exercise and activity increases sperm counts, so I think just sitting for long periods is inherently bad for fertility.” Away from that, Shield Your Body outlined one more risk.

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The website noted that a previous paper spoke of the dangers that expectant mothers face when getting too close to laptops. Incredibly, the EMF readings surpassed their “safety limits” by as much as 483 percent during the study. To give you a little more context, not even a high-powered electricity cable gives off that much radiation.

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So keeping all that in mind, you’re probably wondering if there’s a way to avoid such potential health risks. According to Shield Your Body, it’s possible to continue using a laptop without exposing yourself to the risk of long-term harm. But to do that, you need to lift the computer off your legs.

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Indeed, the website claimed that the EMF exposure would be significantly reduced if you placed your laptop on a desk instead. To be more specific, the radiation levels are said to drop by roughly three-quarters when you create a decent gap. That’s a massive difference, and it’s fairly easy to implement.

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In addition to that, Shield Your Body had another suggestion to share as well. We discussed earlier that chargers cause ELF levels to skyrocket, but you can cut back on that by simply unplugging the device once it’s juiced up. While it might only be a short-term solution, every little helps.

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Finally, there’s one more idea that you can take on board. If you have no other options available to you, you can still rest your laptop on your legs – Shield Your Body claimed that an “EMF shield” could safeguard your organs from any damage. It’s essentially a protective pad that covers your lap.

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In other instances, coverings made from gel could be just as helpful, as that material is known to soak up warmth. Sheynkin doesn’t believe that those tools would aid you in the long run, however, and he brings up a suggestion of his own. He told USA Today, “The shorter the exposure is, the less potential impact from the laptop computer you may experience.”

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