Laptops and toasted skin syndrome: a few thoughts

laptop burn injury

From The Metro 04/10/10:

An unusual skin condition which once afflicted bakers and glass-blowers has made a comeback. Except this time it’s affecting laptop users.

'Toasted skin syndrome’ which is caused by long-term heat exposure, is affecting people who use a laptop on their knees.

It is generally harmless but can cause permanent skin darkening, and in rare cases is can lead to cancer, Swiss researchers warned.

In one case, a 12-year-old boy developed a sponge-patterned skin discolouration on his thigh after playing computer games for a few hours every day for several months.

In another case a US law student developed the condition after spending about six hours a day working with her computer propped on her lap.

The temperature underneath the machine registered 52C (125F)

This story has been widely reported over the past week and I first encountered it in the trusty Metro.  It’s good to see the law student putting in the hours but there are a couple of things which I still don’t quite ‘get’. 

Firstly, why was she spending 6 hours a day with her laptop on her lap?  What’s wrong with a desk?  Kitchen table?  The law library?  I know we all have different ways of working, but being perched on a sofa with a laptop balanced on your lap surrounded by books, papers and other studenty stuff doesn’t strike me as a very efficient way of working.  It can’t be doing her posture any good either.

Secondly, if she’s absolutely got to use it on her lap, how about getting a laptop tray. Although I switch between my desktop PC and laptop frequently, I’ve always felt it necessary to keep the fan intakes clear at the bottom – particularly when using a laptop in bed.  I used to use the lid of a large plastic storage container until I discovered the Belkin range of Cush-Desks.  I’ve been using one for several months now and rate them very highly.


Most product manuals specify that laptops can get hot and warn users to avoid prolonged use of laptops against bare skin – precisely because of the risk of burns.  But you can’t always protect people from themselves.  After all, didn’t she sense it was slowly cooking her legs?  Or was it analogous to a frog in boiling water not noticing the slowly increasing temperature? Maybe she should have put a thicker pair of trousers on. 

No matter what, it’s tough to have much sympathy here.


  1. pffft, i knew this all along! :P

    I bought one of those pads with crystals... they're really good!

  2. If you say so... I looked at them a while back and they seemed to have mediocre reviews at various places online.

    They seemed a bit gimmicky tbh! :p

  3. The weird thing is that it only seems to work if you're actually applying to your bare skin, otherwise you're just heated up rather than straight out burnt. That seems to imply that this student was doing 6 hours a day studying partly naked. That partly explains why they weren't working in the library.

  4. lol - that thought also occurred to me while I was writing the post!!

    A female law student who likes to study naked!!! ...

    Wow... why didn't I house-share with someone like her when I was a student?!? ;-)

  5. Probably good you didn't...I'm not sure a restraining order would have done your career much good.

  6. hehe.. yep - good point Ody! :p


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Law Actually is 10 years old today

Blogger’s new templates: Contempo, Soho, Emporio and Notable

Nissan Micra driver reconceptualises traffic laws