NEWS: Radiofrequency electromagnetic waves of laptops with Wi-Fi may decrease male fertility

A recent prospective in vitro study, claimed to be the first to assess the impact of laptops with wireless local area network connection (Wi-Fi) on spermatozoa, reports that prolonged use by keeping the device on the lap may reduce male fertility.

Conrado Avendano, Research Director at the Nascentis Medicina Reproductiva, Córdoba, Argentina, and coworkers, conducted the in vitro study on semen samples collected from 29 healthy donors. A swim up protocol was used for motile sperm selection, and each sample was aliquoted into two fractions: control and experimental. The experimental fractions were incubated under a laptop on Wi-Fi, exposing it to radiofrequency electromagnetic waves (RF-EMW) for 4 hours.

In order to maximize the probability of detecting the harmful effects of the radiation, the samples were placed 3 cm from the laptop: the estimated distance between the testes/epididymides and a computer on the lap. An air conditioning system was utilized to maintain the temperature at 25°C under the laptop. The control fractions were incubated similarly, but without exposure to laptops or other electronic devices. Sperm motility, vitality, and DNA fragmentation were the main outcomes measured following the incubation period, in the study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

The experimental sperm samples, when compared to controls, demonstrated
• significantly reduced progressive sperm motility (68.7% ± 8.8% vs. 80.9% ± 7.5%; P<0.01)
• consequent rise in the number of non-motile spermatozoa (24.5% ± 7.6% vs. 13.6% ± 5.6%; P<0.01)
• increased sperm DNA fragmentation (8.6% ± 6.6% vs. 3.3% ± 6.0%; P<0.01)

However, no significant variation was noted in the percentage of viable sperms.

The study demonstrated that radiation from laptops on Wi-Fi is three or more times greater than from those without such a connection, and 7-15 times more than basal situations (no laptops). Based on the findings, the researchers concluded that using such computers on the lap reduce sperm quality by a nonthermal effect.

Sperms may require about a week’s time to travel from the seminiferous tubules to the cauda epididymis during spermatogenesis. Throughout this period, they are highly susceptible to the effects of RF-EMW, particularly from a source positioned near the testes and epididymes (Wi-Fi connected laptop). Earlier studies have demonstrated the adverse effects of electromagnetic fields on various biological mechanisms. Most of these effects are associated with the production of free radicals that lead to oxidative damage at the DNA or membrane level, resulting in immotility and cell death.

There is a possibility that low radiation, emitted from a laptop without WiFi connection, may also damage the sperms. Some experts suggest that sperms stored and examined in vitro do not possess the protection offered by the fluids and tissues of the testes, and are hence more susceptible to such damage. In view of these findings, larger in vivo studies are required to validate the potential implications of RF-EMW on male fertility.

References

1. Avendaño C, Mata A, Sanchez Sarmiento CA, Doncel GF. Use of laptop computers connected to internet through Wi-Fi decreases human sperm motility and increases sperm DNA fragmentation. Fertil Steril. 2012 Jan;97(1):39-45.e2.

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