My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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blotchy burns on my legs from my Macbook

I acquired my black Macbook late in the spring and was doing a lot of traveling until mid-July. Since then, I’ve been at home working on my laptop all day and all night. I purchase laptops because they’re LAPtops (regardless of Apple’s avoidance of that term) – I need the machine in my lap so that my hands can be at the right angle to prevent my carpal tunnel from flaring up. This is why I haven’t owned a desktop in almost a decade. (Managing my CTS is a longer story, but laptops are the only thing that I’ve found to work.)

Much to my horror, a burn started emerging on my lap this summer. It’s just like the woman who reported this last year. It’s kinda creepy actually. The burn is all blotchy and it shows where my laptop clearly sits. I didn’t feel it happening, but it’s noticeably there and very much in the shape of my Mac. (And it makes it clear that I angle my Mac funny on my lap.) In fact, when it first started to appear, I ignored it because I thought maybe I had done a bad job with the suntan lotion on my thighs. But it got worse and then it dawned on me. I had heard about this problem, but I thought they had fixed it with some firmware upgrade. But it is distinctly the shape and size of my Mac. And it most definitely happened this summer and I have done all of the upgrades requested.

The eerie part is that it’s not going away. I went to Burning Man (which meant 5 days without the laptop) and when I returned, I found a wooden lap-seat to place the machine on, but it still hasn’t gone away. (In the meantime, the burn I got from getting seared by the Temple embers has gone away, as has the slight sunburn.) I’m starting to get a wee bit creeped out. What kind of burn is this? Did my laptop cause more damage than I thought? Are people who aren’t seeing the burn still being affected by whatever is causing it? I never thought that my Macbook was that hot – it was always comfortable in my lap with my yoga pants on. The burn happened without me noticing pain. And there’s no dreadful sound or anything. Just a creeping blotchy ugly burn that doesn’t show any signs of going away.

(Photos not getting posted cuz my thighs are *not* my sexiest feature.)

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64 comments to blotchy burns on my legs from my Macbook

  • Dang it all. I have recently noticed a blotchy area just above my left knee, though it’s not red, but more of a brownish color. Over the past 24 hours of so finally decided it must be linked to my laptop use, and googled leg burns laptop, where I found a link to this blog. I am not using a Macbook. I am using a gateway. The blotchiness looks exactly like the burn my sister-in-law got on her back when she fell asleep with a sleeping pad. I have the gut feeling that the burn is below the skin. There is no real redness or scabs. Now I’ll have to look up EAI. Well, at least I’m not alone.

  • Robert Evans

    I received a serious burn from my 3 year old white plastic macbook two days ago. It consists of one large one-inch by one-half inch blister, two smaller blisters, and a few other read burn areas. The large blister has popped, and the whole thing looks gross. The larger blister will likely leave a scar.

    After reading the various comments, it is obvious that Apple does not acknowledge any responsibility for the burns. Apple seems to blame the victim, even though there are no warnings. Apple needs to take responsibility and correct this.

    Has anyone sued Apple yet over this?

  • frances

    i got the same problem with my macbook

  • frances

    i noticed the time people got burnt by a laptop were almost from the end of 2010, like me, the start of 2011. does anyone relate this with the material those manufacturers are using nowadays? anyone thought about compensation? this is a dangerous and serious issue i consider. most people were burnt under unconsciousness, if the time was enough long, what kind of burnt damage could it cause? especially when children are holding one of these machines (mostly from HP and Mac), serious damage to their health could happen. i’m looking for suggestions on compensation, or any suggestions could made to these manufacturers. anyone has got any ideas on this? i was burnt unconsciousness and have got 6 small blisters and scratches around the red mark with a Mac machine’s shape.. i hope it’s not damaged from under the skin..

  • Bee

    yes, this is happening to me too. I feel the whole of the left leg as if it’s being cooked on the inside. It tingles and it’s hot and it’s uncomfortable. Am I being micro waved from the inside out?

  • sueli rocha

    i got the same problem with my macbook.
    Am I being micro waved from the inside out? My left leg is brown from the burn. I work every day at least 3 hours with my MACPRo on top of my legs. When I notice the burn I decided to put a pillow between my LAPtop and my legs. Still I got the same burn. I really hope it’s not damaging my under skin. Helpppppp

  • mary

    I have a macbook that was bought in August of 2010 and I have used it without incident until a couple months ago when it was on my lap with my leg crossed to brace the back of it. It started getting warm for quite some time, but it wasn’t uncomfortable or painful until quite some time later when I finally took it off my leg. A couple hours later, I got a large red blotchy burn on my leg, accompanied by 3 blisters which all sort of connected. The blisters popped leaving a deep raw gouge in my leg. This scabbed up and took forever to heal (partially due to the infection in it during some of this time). I now have a dark purple scar on my leg from this. A lot of people don’t believe that you could get burned without realizing it at the time, but it is completely possible. I have used my laptop up til then and since then without incident and I am completely satisfied with it in all other respects.

  • Lucy

    This happens with any type of extended skin exposure to heat and it’s called toasted skin syndrome. This is not a fault of MacBooks or other laptops – it’s a machine so obviously it’s going to produce heat…but putting it on your skin for long periods of time is like exposing yourself to sun damage. If it continues and you don’t change your habits it can increase your chances of skin cancer. Use a lap desk of some sort, they won’t raise the height much and you can always get a keyboard wrist rest. I’m saying this as a medical student. Although this post is old these cases are now extremely common…

  • Shar

    I have blotchy dark areas on my neck from a MacBook.. My neck is white where it is protected by the tilt of my chin.
    Skin is damaged.

  • Jim

    I just was a victim as well from an early 2008 MacBook Pro that severely burnt my leg, after falling asleep. I had to go to the hospital because of how much pain i was in. My sister being a nurse has never seen a burn that bad other than something caused by a fire. Apple needs to step up and put some kind of big warning stickers on their notebooks because most people wouldn’t believe what kind of damage it can cause if you mistakenly leave it on your lap to long. But i thought thats what a portable device was for? Something that can be used anywhere and not have to worry about burning your leg so bad that it damaged muscle tissue as well. My wound is still healing and i have photos and videos of what happen. Apple needs to compensate somehow to those that have been victims and also warn future customers about the potential health hazards from defective units.

  • Robbie

    I am affected by the radiation so bad that I have tried to stack books on my lap and have bought lap trays to try and get rid of the problem. My newest cost $40 at officemax and it even has a fan. I can still feel it and I am sure it is radiation. My iphnoe does the same thing to my face. I talked to apple and all they say is “it is not a laptop.” I am concerned about the risk of cancer…

  • I am using a PC (not Mac) laptop and I, too, have the blotchy brown burn where the vent on my computer is. It has been there for about three months now and does not seem to improve. I am very conscious about keeping the laptop away from that area. I am very concerned. Would like to hear back from somebody about how long their lesion lasted. Thanks in advance.

  • steven

    Hi Danah, a similar issue persists with the 2012 MacBook. I got wrapped up in a task the other day and didn’t notice that my MacBook was burning my left leg. The burns blistered up, the skin peeled away and now they have scabbed over. I will be using the external keyboard even more. :)

  • Samantha

    I’ve got a Macbook, and have had the brown splotchiness on one leg for a few months now – i thought it was just a tan from going to the beach or something, but it hasn’t gone away. NOW i know what it is.. Is it just me or do other people find that the leg affected is now more sensitive to heat? The whole cancer thing has got me a tiny bit freaked out, and I will now stop using my laptop for it’s intended use – SITTING ON MY LAP. Kind of stupid, when you think about it. I hope more people start realising the damage that can occur..

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