Do Laptop Computers Emit Fumes?

by Andrew Aarons

Laptop computers have become ubiquitous pieces of technology. Take a flight or visit any coffee shop anywhere in the world and you’ll see nearly as many computers as people. While the health risks of constantly using laptop computers are still debated, most experts agree that laptops don’t emit dangerous radiation or fumes.

If You See Fumes

Note that it’s not at all normal for your laptop to be giving off fumes, and even less normal for you to be able to see any fumes radiating from the computer. If you see any steam or heat coming off of the laptop, don’t touch it. Unplug it, let the battery drain and then take it back to where you bought it to see if it can be replaced under warranty.


Laptops can give off considerable heat if their fan isn’t working properly. Because laptops are often used as their name suggests -- in people’s laps -- the cooling and fan vents can become clogged with dust and debris, which will stick to the fan and cause it to labor while cooling the system. Your laptop may get hot to the touch, but that doesn’t mean that it’s emitting harmful fumes.


Cell phones are known to be potentially cancer-causing devices, but the electromagnetic fields created by laptops are considerably weaker. Likewise, the EMF from Wi-Fi in laptops haven’t been shown to cause any health affects in people. The only link between laptops and health is in male fertility: a 2011 Time Magazine article indicates that men who use laptops directly on their laps may have their sperm count affected because of the heat generated by the computer -- not because of any harmful fumes.


Fumes asides, laptop computers are filled with toxins and dangerous chemicals, but you’ll never encounter any of those chemicals during the after use of a computer. The only time you’re at danger of encountering toxic fumes from a laptop is if you smash it to bits. Then, as when laptops are shipped to China, India or Nigeria for recycling or landfill, the process of breaking down the components in the laptop releases mercury, lead and cadmium into the air and water. As long as you stick to using your computer for computing you won’t be affected by these chemicals.

About the Author

Living in Canada, Andrew Aarons has been writing professionally since 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ottawa, where he served as a writer and editor for the university newspaper. Aarons is also a certified computer-support technician.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images