Putting Your Laptop on Your Lap: Is it Really Dangerous

The internet is teeming with articles about the dangers of putting your laptop on your lap. These posts claim that using your laptop as designed can cause everything from infertility to cancer.

While these particular claims are absolute bogus, there are some dangers to putting your laptop on your lap that you should be aware of.

We’ll be busting some myths about putting your laptop on your lap as well as giving you the truth.

Myth 1: A laptop’s wireless signal causes infertility

False! This myth claims that using a laptop on your lap causes infertility. It is supported by only one study by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine which was conducted between 2011-2012.

It took semen samples from 29 healthy subjects and exposed the sperm to a wireless signal for 4 hours. They claim that the sperm showed “decreased motility (ability to move on its own) and an increase in DNA fragmentation.”

However, fertility doctors do not seem to agree and understandably cite the lack of support in this claim.

Note the study was on sperm that was ex vivo meaning the sperm was no longer inside the body and thus subjected to other variables that may not be present in the human body.

You are exposed to no more radiation while using your laptop than you are flying in a plane or simply walking around outside.

Myth 2: The heat from a laptop causes infertility

..the amount of heat needed to make a person infertile is far higher than the hottest laptops…

Also false! While this claim is also false it is looking in the right direction. It is true that increased temperature exposure to the reproductive organs can cause infertility; however, the amount of heat needed to make a person infertile is far higher than the hottest laptops.

You would be more likely to burn the skin off your legs (and unmentionables) before you caused yourself to become infertile.

It is recommended, though, that those who are pregnant keep their laptops off of their stomachs so as not to expose the baby to the heat of the laptop. Keeping the laptop on your legs is fine so long as it isn’t hot enough to burn you.

Myth 3: The heat from a laptop can burn you

Source: 2oceansvibe.com

True! Yes, the heat from a laptop can absolutely burn your skin. This is the main danger you are exposed to when using a laptop on your lap. Under pressure laptops can reach temps of nearly 150°F! That is more than enough heat to burn your skin, even through your clothes.

This is such a common occurrence that doctors have nicknamed it ‘laptop thighs’ or ‘toasted skin syndrome’. It can be pretty serious.

Laptops slowly heat up to roasting temperatures over time and this could lead to skin damage without you even knowing. So if you feel your laptop getting warmer, it’s a good idea to remove it from your legs and/or nether region.

If you are doing some intensive work on your laptop that will cause it to heat up faster (e.g. gaming or working with large files), it is advisable to keep your laptop on your desk, ideally on a cooling pad so that your laptop doesn’t overheat.

Myth 4: Using a laptop on your lap can lead to back and neck problems

..Hunching over a laptop on your lap can cause back and neck problems as well as poor posture, especially when doing so for a long period of time…

True, sort of. Hunching over a laptop on your lap can cause back and neck problems as well as poor posture, especially when doing so for a long period of time.

The design of laptops simply leads to poor posture when using on the lap because the keyboard and screen are connected and cannot move independently of one another.

Dr. Kevin Carneiro of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, suggests limiting the amount of time you sit with your laptop on your lap to prevent back and neck pain.

Getting a docking station or simply sitting at a desk with a chair that has back support can greatly reduce your chances of suffering from laptop-itis.

This myth is only sort of true because there are many causes of back and neck problems, posture being a key factor.

I don’t know of very many people who have perfect posture all the time. Your posture when your laptop is on your desk could be just as bad if not worse as when your laptop is on your lap.

Either way, it’s best to practice perfect posture whenever you’re seated for long periods of time.

Myth 5: Using a laptop on your lap causes sleep problems

Source: verywellhealth.com

True, sort of. Your laptop screen emits what is called blue light, which is a wavelength of light that promotes attention and energy. It’s an energy efficient wavelength to use and as such, it is used in many modern devices.

Using any device that utilizes blue light can cause sleep problems. This goes for your smartphone, tablet, television, desktop computer, etc.

Because blue light promotes attention and energy, using a blue light device before bed isn’t great for your sleep. There are ways to turn off the blue light on your laptop screen via the display settings.

However, this is only sort of true because using your laptop on your lap has no bearing on the amount of blue light you’re exposed to.

It’s going to be the same whether the laptop is on your lap, on your desk, on your ceiling, etc.

Myth 6: Using a laptop on your lap causes cancer

False. There is literally no evidence to support this claim in the slightest. 

A study by Andreas Arnold and Peter Itin was cited by vesttech.com (and many others) who claimed the researchers found evidence of laptop use being linked to squamous cell cancer (an acute, fast moving skin cancer). 

However, nowhere in the study does Arnold or Itin claim this. Their study is in reference to a young boy suffering from ‘toasted skin syndrome’ or ‘laptop thigh’ after using his laptop on his lap for a period of around 4 hours.

They do cite that squamous cell cancer can be caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures, however there are no modern cases of any type of skin cancer being caused by the use of a laptop on the lap.

They do recommend placing a barrier of some kind, whether a laptop pad or heat shield, beneath the laptop in order to protect your skin from getting burned.

..the main danger you are exposed to when using a laptop on your lap is being burned…

So the main danger you are exposed to when using a laptop on your lap is being burned. To avoid this, limit the amount of time you have your laptop on your lap or put something in between the laptop and your skin to prevent being burned.

Be aware of the amount of blue light you expose yourself to before bedtime to avoid sleep difficulties. And last of all, try to practice good posture when you are seated for a long time.

To protect yourself from myths about laptops, don’t believe everything you read on the internet and fact-check your sources! (You can believe us, we did our research on this one!)

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