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Laptop Radiation: The Potential Danger and Associated Risks

When you think of radiation, some of the things that first come to mind are microwave ovens, cell phones, Wifi routers, and Bluetooth devices. People hardly ever think of the radiation that is emitted by laptops. 

Is there laptop radiation danger to be aware of? Yes, laptops emit electromagnetic field or EMF radiation and there is plenty of research to inform us of the risks.

Any radio signal-based electronic device is capable of emitting harmful electromagnetic frequency (EMF) waves. Laptops are particularly dangerous, given that they emit high levels of all the three different types of EMF.

This guide explores the potential danger and associated risks of laptop radiation.

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Laptop Radiation: Is It a Real Threat?

If you thought the only radiation risk you face is from cell phones, you’d be surprised to learn that laptops are just as dangerous. Not only do they expose users to all three forms of EMF radiation but they’re also used close to the body. 

A young boy laying in a couch looking at a laptop open and resting on his stomach while wearing earphones connected to the laptop

Think about it: when you are on your laptop, chances are you’re using it for work, playing games, or streaming your favorite show with the laptop on your lap. More often than not, you’ll also need a Wi-Fi connection to do this.

You might even activate Bluetooth to connect and transfer files between various input and output devices connected to your computer. So, at any given time, your laptop exposes you to copious amounts of radiation. Here’s how.

Exposure to Laptop Magnetic Field Radiation

All electronics emit their fair share of magnetic energy. Laptops are no different. Any device that has an electric current flowing through it forms a magnetic field around it. The higher the amount of electricity, the stronger the field will be.

However, its intensity decreases significantly, the further away you get from the device. According to the inverse square law of physics, doubling your distance from a signal source reduces your exposure by a quarter.

Laptops are designed to be kept close to the body. As such, there’s no escaping the magnetic energy they emit.

The highest amount is generated from the portion of the base that houses the motherboard. The CPU and LCD screen display generate EMFs as well. Here are some estimates of the amount of magnetic energy emitted by LCD monitors relative to distance:

  • 1 inch away from the screen exposes you to between 25 and 500 mG (milliGauss).
  • 1 foot away from the monitor exposes you to between 0.4 and 20 mG (milliGauss).

The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you limit your exposure to between 0.5 mG and 2.5 mG.

The CPU and the motherboard are the powerhouses of the laptop. As a result, they generate quite a substantial amount of magnetic field energy.

If you have an EMF meter you can test this fact by hovering it above the base of the machine. You’ll notice a spike in the readings when the meter closes in on to the two components.

Exposure to Laptop Radio Frequency Energy

When people talk about EMFs, more often than not, they are referring to radiofrequency (RF) energy. When you use a laptop to send and receive information wirelessly RF energy is emitted.

This typically occurs through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, whose sources happen to be the wireless network card and the Bluetooth antenna. These are both incorporated into the laptop motherboard.

Laptop Wi-Fi

As long as your laptop is connected to Wi-Fi, there’s a significant amount of RF energy being emitted from the wireless network card. That’s how packets of information are transferred between your device and the internet.

Young boy sitting on a couch with a man next to him together looking and engaging with a laptop on the boy' s lap

It enables you to send emails, browse the internet, and stream movies online. EMF meter readings will likely be in the following ballpark:

  • 4.8 mW/m2when you’re at least 1 inch away from your computer
  • 1.2 mW/m2when you’re at least 1 foot away from your computer
  • 0.21 mW/m2when you’re at least 3 feet away from your computer

When taking EMF readings using any good quality meter, ensure that you are looking at the “peak” number. This will likely give you more accurate readings as opposed to the “primary” number, which is often much lower.

That’s because all information sent over a Wi-Fi (or Bluetooth) network is transmitted in the form of packets of data. These form very fast alternating signals. So using the peak readings gives a realistic picture of the amount of RF energy being emitted by the device since this is what is more likely to affect you.

You’ll notice from the readings that the further away you get from the laptop, the less the amount of RF energy you’re exposed to. However, this isn’t realistic since you need to be reasonably close to your laptop to be able to use it effectively.

Nevertheless, there are some protective measures you can take to minimize your exposure and reduce the associated risks.

Laptop Bluetooth

Aside from Wi-Fi, the other major radiation from laptops is Bluetooth. Regardless of whether your laptop is actively connected to devices, it’s always searching for other Bluetooth-enabled gadgets to connect with.

As a result, it is constantly emitting RF waves. For this reason, you should always ensure that you disable Bluetooth when you don’t have any connected devices. This eliminates any potential risk that could arise as a result of prolonged RF radiation exposure.

Effects of Laptop Radiation on Fertility

When laptops are used on the lap, they can get quite hot, which poses a significant threat to male fertility. This is often the most talked-about concern when discussions on laptop dangers come up. What most people don’t realize is that there’s an even bigger threat than the thermal risk. Radiation from laptops is and the electromagnetic fields men are exposed to is a real problem.

Over the years, there have been numerous studies that show using a laptop that’s connected to any EMF radiating source has adverse effects on male sperm count, motility and quality. It also causes fragmentation of sperm cellular DNA.

What are the findings?

Unlike the other side effects of EMF energy that take a considerable amount of time to manifest, the effect of laptop use on male fertility is almost instantaneous. Placing a laptop on your lap and using it for as little as four hours has been known to reduce sperm motility by as high as 25%. Doing this regularly could affect sperm motility by as much as 50%.

In 2008 a team of scientists embarked on an observational study to investigate the effect of cell phone usage on men. Cell phones emit RF signals, which are the same type of EMF generated by laptops when they are connected to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. 

In the study, 361 men who were undergoing fertility treatment were grouped into four categories according to the frequency of their cell phone usage. The groups were as follows:

  • 1: No active cell phone use
  • 2: Less than 2 hours a day of active cell phone use
  • 3: Between 2 and 4 hours a day of active cell phone use
  • 4: More than 4 hours a day of active cell phone use

The findings of this study were alarming. The sperm count, motility, morphology, and viability decreased as the total time actively spent on cell phone usage increased. Therefore, the overall quality of a man’s sperm can be directly linked to their daily exposure to RF radiation.

If you’re a man with infertility issues, analyze the time you spend using your laptop on your lap.

Effects of Laptop Radiation on Pregnant Women

If you’re an expectant mother (or trying to be), it’s a no-brainer that you need to be careful about the amount of EMF exposure during pregnancy. For one thing, using your laptop directly on your belly without any form of EMF radiation protection is a risk.

Pregnant woman with a laptop in her lap sitting with a man together on a bed in an engaged conversation referencing the laptop

Several studies have revealed a positive correlation between RF energy exposure and an increased risk of suffering miscarriages during pregnancy. There are measures you can take to help reduce EMF exposure to your unborn baby. These include draping an EMF protection blanket over your pregnant belly when using electronic devices, particularly those that emit RF signals. 

They are made from materials that have a high attenuation rating that can effectively absorb and neutralize ambient EMF waves. The best part about these blankets is that you can also wrap your infant baby in them after they’re born to minimize their exposure to EMFs including from cell phone radiation after pregnancy.

Effects of Laptop Radiation on Children

Children and babies are more sensitive and susceptible to the dangerous effects of EMF (remember to keep babies at least 3 feet away from cell phones). This is because their chemical, physical, and biological systems are dramatically different from those of adults. This fact makes them more vulnerable to all kinds of environmental dangers but particularly electromagnetic fields.

In addition to this, their bones and skulls are not yet fully formed, rendering them too thin to offer any meaningful protection against the harmful effects of radiation from devices like laptops and cell phones.

2011 study was done to show that the radiation exposure limits provided by the FCC are a gross underestimation, especially in children. One of the reasons for this as provided in the reports was that the fluid used in testing. This is supposed to mimic the electrical properties of the head could not be used as an indicator for the specific absorption rate (SAR) of human adult brain tissue much less for that of children or smaller adults.

The brain has a complex chemical composition that is difficult to replicate. They have high concentrations of ions and fluids that make them excellent signal conductors allowing exposed EMFs to penetrate brain tissue a lot further.

According to the report, the SAR for a 10-year old child is up to 153% higher than that of the model used by the FCC for testing. In terms of the electrical properties of the head, the rate of absorption of RF energy in a child is double that of an adult. Additionally, a child’s skull marrow absorbs up to 10 times more radiation than an adult’s.

Physical Differences in Children Making Them More Susceptible

There’s also the issue of the size of the head. Children and smaller adults have much smaller heads, which reduces the distance between radiation sources and their brain centers. Because children’s brains have a higher liquid content, they offer virtually no resistance at all to ambient EMF radiation.

What’s more, the blood-brain barrier, whose function is to protect the brain from foreign substances that might cause harm, is a lot more permeable in children. This means toxins and free radicals in the bloodstream created as a by-product of EMF exposure can easily find their way into their developing brains and wreak havoc.

Effects of Laptop Radiation on DNA

Numerous studies have indicated a positive link between EMF exposure from laptops and cellular DNA fragmentation. In a 2010 report to review how DNA responds to EMFs in various frequency ranges, the results of the study shed light on the matter. 

They revealed that EMFs caused DNA strand breakage and increased stress protein levels, which are both indications of cellular damage. What’s more, DNA also exhibited electronic conduction, which further gives it antenna properties in its interaction with EMF.

This damage to DNA is widely considered a precursor to cancer. There are lots of studies that link the development of glioma, a type of cancer of the brain, to RF exposure. Laptops also generate RF energy, which is considered carcinogenic.

It’s important to bear in mind that EMF damage to DNA doesn’t happen overnight. It is the result of cumulative exposure over a prolonged period. It is, therefore entirely up to you to do all you can to reduce exposure to a minimal level to decrease your risk of developing cancer in the long run.

Minimize the Risks Associated with Laptop Radiation Exposure

The effects of EMF radiation exposure are cumulative, which means that it will take several years, at the very least, before you begin to feel the effects. While it is impossible to stay away from laptops altogether, there are some protective measures you can take to minimize your exposure to harmful EMF radiation.

For instance, try your best to limit your laptop usage. If you must connect to the internet, use cables as opposed to RF connections like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. They are a safer and healthier alternative.

Also, remember to switch off all wireless connections on your laptop when you’re not using them to reduce the potential danger and associated risks of laptop emissions. Finally, get a good quality laptop shield to neutralize the EMF radiation generated by your device. It’ll pay off in the long run. Want to shield yourself from EMF? Read about how EMF shielding materials work