Apple Issues Warning About iPhones And Pacemakers

Apple has again sought to warn people about the issue of magnets in mobile phones and keeping them away from implanted magnetic devices.

The iPhone 12 has MagSafe technology, and Apple put out a notice on its support pages at the weekend, warning users that iPhones contain magnets and radios that emit electromagnetic fields, both of which ‘may interfere’ with medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators.

It recommends that iPhones are kept at least six inches away from a pacemaker or implanted defibrillator during normal use. It also recommends that iPhones are kept a foot away if the device is actively using wireless charging. Basically, don’t fall asleep with an iPhone on your chest if you have an implanted medical device.

MagSafe worries

Apple issued the warning on its support pages about the magnets inside iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, and MagSafe accessories.

The iPhone 12 was launched in October 2020, and it included its MagSafe technology, after it was successfully used for MacBook charging cords.

Essentially MagSafe uses magnets to allow for easy attachment of accessories and faster wireless charging by ‘snapping’ the two parts together.

But the use of magnets does cause concern, especially after a recently released study in which a researcher was able to deactivate a patient’s implanted defibrillator by holding an iPhone 12 directly over the device.

However, it should be remembered that this study was only carried out on one person and didn’t indicate if the same results would have occurred with a non-MagSafe device.

To address these concerns, Medtronic, the manufacturer of implanted medical devices, issued an statement about iPhones and the iPhone 12.

“Medtronic has analysed iPhone technology and found that it presents no increased risk of interference with Medtronic implantable cardiac rhythm devices, such as pacemakers, implantable defibrillators (ICDs), and cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillators (CRT-Ds), when used according to labeling,” it said.

“As a precaution, we advise patients implanted with cardiac devices to maintain a distance of six inches (15 cm) between all cell phones and their implanted devices, consistent with recommendations for other low wattage electromagnetic devices,” it added.

“Apple’s iPhone 12 series features a magnet that allows these phones to more easily align with external accessories,” it said. “According to Apple, the MagSafe technology in iPhone 12 models is not expected to pose a greater risk of magnetic interference to medical devices than prior iPhone models.”

Apple guidance

But just to be sure, Apple at the weekend issued the following advice for users of the iPhone 12.

“iPhone contains magnets as well as components and radios that emit electromagnetic fields,” the firm said. “All MagSafe accessories (each sold separately) also contain magnets – and MagSafe Charger and MagSafe Duo Charger contain radios. These magnets and electromagnetic fields might interfere with medical devices.”

“Though all iPhone 12 models contain more magnets than prior iPhone models, they’re not expected to pose a greater risk of magnetic interference to medical devices than prior iPhone models,” it added.

“Medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators might contain sensors that respond to magnets and radios when in close contact,” said Apple. “

To avoid any potential interactions with these devices, keep your iPhone and MagSafe accessories a safe distance away from your device (more than 6 inches / 15 cm apart or more than 12 inches / 30 cm apart if wirelessly charging),” it said. “But consult with your physician and your device manufacturer for specific guidelines.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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