So, I’m pretty much chemically bonded with my laptop. Susan (her name is Susan) functions as workstation, entertainment centre, and communication device. Except for a marked increase in heat production recently (she’s getting old), I hadn’t really thought about the hazards associated with laptop use — until a friend, in casual conversation, said something along the lines of “Yeah, if you want to have kids, don’t put a laptop on your actual lap.” Wait, what?
The thing is: Radiation. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about exactly how much you’re nuking your nether regions as you sit on your couch watching Maru do his thing. All appliances emit some radiation, wireless ones more so than others (heck, some fruit do too). In fact, The WHO has officially determined that the electromagnetic fields emitted by cell phones is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” And what are cell phones now, really, but tiny computers that can call people?
But laptops are a slightly different story. The WHO itself has published information about electromagnetic fields in the average home: a computer ranks at the bottom of the list, at less than 0.01 µT detected at a 30 cm distance. But 30 cm is actually pretty far — when many people use their laptops, they usually balance them on their laps, well within the range of all the important organs in the lower abdomen.
It seems the laptop-radiation=cancer relationship has not been proven conclusively, though. The biggest threat to said abdomen from your trusty MacBook (or otherwise) is currently heat. A writer over at Time Techland attributes his fertility problems to his laptop’s heat affecting his sperm production. And if that doesn’t scare you off the habit (gentlemen, at least), there is a proven connection between laptop heat and “toasted skin syndrome,” a mottled “sponge-pattern” of agitated capillaries on the upper leg that occurs after long term exposure.
It’s mostly been my back trouble that’s kept Susan safely ensconced on my desk recently. If the spirit moves me however, I may return to lap-based use — but only if my lap is shielded by a layer of sourdough and nice sharp cheddar, so I can have a grilled cheese for lunch.
(Editor’s Note: Or just play it completely safe and buy yourself a little inexpensive laptop desk for your living room, like this one from Ikea. Your skin/junk will thank me later.)