back to article Apple warns kit may interfere with implanted medical devices at close proximity

If you have a pacemaker, it’s probably not a good idea to hug your Apple kit. The company has warned about potential interference with implanted medical devices from virtually every product it sells. Over the weekend, Apple published an updated list of devices that may interfere with potentially life-saving healthcare …

  1. Mishak

    kit may interfere with implanted medical devices

    This will apply to virtually any electronics that includes strong magnets or radios that transmit over a certain level.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: kit may interfere with implanted medical devices

      Is there something particularly strong about the iPhone's magnets? Is this a problem unique to Apple, or is it just that no-one else has done any testing?

      M.

      1. Martin-R

        Re: kit may interfere with implanted medical devices

        From reading the AHF paper, it would appear that these implants have a 'magnet reversion mode' that triggers a certain behaviour when a doughnut magnet is placed over the device. Normal phones have 'little to no risk' of interference but the Magsafe alignment magnets are in a ring that appears to do more than a passable impression of the doughnut magnets - 3/3 devices for their in vivo tests vs a previous study that found none in 148 patients with an iPhone 6

      2. bill 27

        Re: kit may interfere with implanted medical devices

        My ICD was installed in October of 2010. I was told then to not get my cell phone (brand nonspecific) within 6" of it, meaning I should use it on my right ear. I had it swapped out last year, battery was going flat, and asked. Same advice. I also never carry the phone in my shirt pocket. My original guess had to do with the EMP coming from the speaker, but I did say guess. Now days, if I worried about it at all, it'd be people reaching out and reprogramming it, it has wireless access after all.

    2. wallyhall

      Re: kit may interfere with implanted medical devices

      I would have thought so.

      It feels like it borders a little on the packet of peanuts that state "Warning: contains nuts". I'd certainly hope they do!

      A focus on better EMF (or whatever) protection in medical devices (particularly those being embedded) would be a sensible step forward here, and perhaps some simple after-market (and thoroughly tested and thoroughly get-out-clause covered) stick-to-your-chest/shoulder protective shields might be wise.

      Even if you keep your *own* device 6 inches away, I can see being packed into the London Underground or something causing just as much risk from the proximity of *other people's* devices.

      1. Mishak

        "Warning: contains nuts"

        I did once find a packet of nuts that had "Warning: May contain nuts"!

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: "Warning: contains nuts"

          I once had a packet of food, can't remember what now, that had:

          Warning, contents may be hot when cooked

          Then, further down

          Warning, ensure product is hot before eating.

          1. Someone Else Silver badge

            Re: "Warning: contains nuts"

            Sounds like the instructions on an MRE....

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
              Happy

              Re: "Warning: contains nuts"

              Surely an MRE has the notice: Warning, may contain food...

      2. Wally Dug

        Re: kit may interfere with implanted medical devices

        While _you_ may keep your own device 6 inches away from your embedded pacemaker, is it beyond the possibility that someone else who is up to No Good could somehow place their device in the target zone?

        I know it sounds like a cheesy far-fetched movie plot, but that is what I take from this article. And as the devices are so readily-available, it doesn't need to be a foreign agent whose mission it is to stop you doing <<insert wild flight of fancy here>> ; it could easily be the neighbour who is in a constant war over parking spaces or wheelie bins.

        Maybe I should get out more...

        1. Claptrap314 Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: kit may interfere with implanted medical devices

          It sounds a lot easier than placing some plutonium in your office...

        2. Velv
          Coat

          Re: kit may interfere with implanted medical devices

          Which is why I wear a tinfoil ^<see icon>...

      3. PRR

        Re: kit may interfere with implanted medical devices

        ....packet of peanuts that state "Warning: contains nuts". I'd certainly hope they do!

        Peanuts are not tree-nuts. They grow underground off a bush instead of up in a tree. They eat the same (after processing) but are biologically quite different.

        The warning on the package is because to the factory, "nuts is nuts" and they use the same machines for sorting and packing. With only a light brushing between almonds and peanuts. If I have a strong reaction to almonds, and get the first bag of peanuts after the line switches off almonds to peanuts, I may wheeze and gasp. (I've been to hospital for that.)

        The warning on iPhone is similar. Most of us do not have mag-sensitive body parts (yet?). If we do, it may not be THAT sensitive. I'm personally not too worried for me; if I were CFO of a company pushing strong magnets to millions (billions?) of strangers with heirs with lawyers, I'd put a warning on the tin.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Aside: Nuts and peanuts and Mangoes

          Peanuts are known as 'ground nuts' in the USA, I believe, and were the source of Jimmy Carter's wealth before he became president. People who are allergic to peanuts should beware that they are botanically related quite closely to Mangoes, so you can have a reaction to mango juice or mango fruit if you are unlucky.

          https://jimmycarter.info/teaching-tools/peanuts/

          https://www.allergicliving.com/experts/can-someone-nut-allergy-react-mangoes-peppercorns/

          1. bill 27

            Re: Aside: Nuts and peanuts and Mangoes

            When I was a kid I lived in Hawaii. We'd see new comers breaking out in hives from their exposure to mangoes.

      4. DS999 Silver badge

        It isn't a lack of EMF protection

        It is that many embedded medical devices deliberately use powerful magnetic fields to control devices, either to disable them or temporarily switch to a special mode that allows information like remaining battery life to be determined.

        Maybe they need to figure out a more secure way of doing so, but I imagine when they developed that technology encountering powerful enough magnets in the outside world was pretty rare. This isn't something where your average refrigerator magnet is going to be a problem. Now not only are such magnets found in phones, but also have been seen with increasing frequency in other locations like ultracompact speakers or anti theft sensors in stores.

        The problem is it will take years for the industry to collectively decide on another method, have the devices/methods approved by the FDA and other relevant medical bodies in the world, start using them, and have replaced all the existent devices or their implantees die from hopefully anything else. So it will be a problem that we'll have to learn to deal with for another couple decades at minimum.

        1. Dante Alighieri Bronze badge
          Thumb Up

          Magnets to program/disable

          You are absolutely correct - magnets allow the devices to be programmed or disabled - used to allow some radiology examinations that would not be otherwise possible.

          Turning off your pacemaker/IED inadvertently is usually a Bad Plan(tm)

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: kit may interfere with implanted medical devices

        This isn't an EMF or EMC issue. There are situations where you may need to quickly and temporarily disable an implanted defibrillator. I believe it's a (at least de-facto) standard to use a magnet.

        I knew a (now departed) fella who had an implanted defibrillator. In time, his heart deteriorated to the point where his defibrillator wasn't detecting his heart rhythm properly, and decided to repeatedly fix the issue by giving him a shock. He was able to hear the defibrillator charge each time, so he knew it was coming. He was also able to view his defibrillator's status via smartphone, so he could see that the battery had enough juice to deliver far more shocks than he wanted to endure. A magnet made for a much more comfortable ride to urgent care.

        RIP Dave, you were the only person who could tell stories about heart failure in a way that left the entire room laughing.

    3. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: kit may interfere with implanted medical devices

      Yes. Not mentioned here, but the BBC article on this subject notes that Apple is just following Samsung and Huawei in issuing this guidance.

  2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Breast Pocket

    I usually keep my mobile phone in my left breast pocket (the only internal pocket my usual jacket posses). Fortunately I do not currently need a pacemaker, but my guess is that people who use breast pockets for their mobile devices should probably not hug someone with a pacemaker.

    I guess it would also apply to anything with powerful magnets.

  3. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

    Not the only class of device...

    The documentation (sparse as it is...it's mostly to reassure the excessively--ignorant--timid) that comes with pacemakers warns about getting too close to induction cooking devices.

  4. mikus

    Old News

    This has been discussed since the last generation of iphones were released. Has someone died yet? Who's the first sacrificial lamb for science and news to take a heart attack for the team?

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Old News

      How would they know if someone died because of this? If they moved their phone next to their heart, then had a heart attack and died, would doctors be able to say with 100% certainty that was the cause? Or would it just look like any other heart attack where the implanted medical device wasn't enough to save them?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Old News

        If they had a pacemaker, I’d be hoping there would be clear diagnostics to confirm pacemaker failure.

        It would be pretty important to know this, magnets or not. Lest some fw bug were killing people.

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Old News

      So this indicates that if you have certain health issues then putting an old RJ22 connected phone next to your IBM keyboard and a modern flat-screen monitor that can sit in front of you, about 24 inches past the keyboard, with the computer on the floor under the desk, is a safe computing environment.

  5. chivo243 Silver badge
    Trollface

    I won't be hugging

    my macpro... or macbook... I saw the list earlier today and thought it would be easier for them to list the few products that don't interfere!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You're holding it wrong!

    Too soon?

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: You're holding it wrong!

      More like

      "You're hugging it wrong!"

  7. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Warnings are not always the safest option

    If one device has a specific warning and another device does not, then people could be forgiven for assuming that the second device is not a risk. The best place to put the warning is on the device that may be affected rather than on a random selection of devices that may have an effect.

    This is the unintended consequence of trying to provide a risk-free environment - people will assume that anything that does not carry a warning about a particular use scenario must be safe to use in that scenario. In other words it reduces the probability that people will make their own risk assessments.

  8. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    The real danger

    ... is that Apple devices will demagnetize you after you've received your COVID-19 vaccine. I bet that's what happened to Joanna Overholt!

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