Researchers from Argentina collected semen samples from 29 men and placed half of the semen from each sample underneath a laptop that was downloading information via wi-fi, and the other half in a protected area away from any electronics. After four hours of wi-fi exposure, 25 percent of the sperm were no longer moving, compared to 14 percent of the sperm that had been protected. Not only that, 9 percent of the wi-fi exposed sperm had undergone DNA changes, compared to 3 percent of the other sperm; changes in DNA can sometimes lead to cancer or children with genetic disorders.
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The authors of the study did say that they suspected that electromagnetic radiation from the wi-fi connection, not the laptop itself, was causing damage, and that a separate test conducted with a disconnected laptop didn't show the same sperm-killing side effect. Robert Oates, MD, president of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology told Reuters Health that, while this study was interesting, it was done in a completely artificial setting and it does not have any human biological relevance.
But there could be a legitimate reason to kick that laptop off your lap, says Diana Zuckerman, PhD, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families. "We are concerned about wi-fi, and not just because of sperm," she says, simply because scientists don't fully understand the cumulative effect of people sitting in rooms filled with electromagnetic radiation, day after day, year after year. Earlier this year, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer declared such radiation a possible human carcinogen due to the effect it has on various parts of the body, including testes and skin. "I agree that this one study is not conclusive, but it certainly is raising important safety questions and makes it clear we need more research ASAP," Zuckerman adds.