When Apple launched the iPhone 12 they warned the device may interfere with medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators.

At the time Apple noted:

iPhone contains magnets as well as components and radios that emit electromagnetic fields. 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.

Now Henry Ford Heart and Vascular Institute cardiologist Gurjit Singh has tested the actual effect of the MagSafe iPhone 12 on implantable defibrillators, which has a function where the defibrillator can be deactivated with a strong magnet, and discovered the iPhone 12 can reliably stop the defibrillator from working.

“When we brought the iPhone 12 close to the patient’s chest the defibrillator was deactivated,” said Dr. Singh. “We saw on the external defibrillator programmer that the functions of the device were suspended and remained suspended. When we took the phone away from the patient’s chest, the defibrillator immediately returned to its normal function.”

“We were all stunned,” he said. “We had assumed that the magnet would be too weak in a phone to trip the defibrillator’s magnetic switch.”

100,000 implantable defibrillators and 200,000 pacemakers are impacted in the USA each year. It is notable that to cause harm the defibrillator would need to be deactivated at the exact moment that you need it, but this could easily happen if you routinely carry your iPhone 12 in your breast pocket.

“We believe our findings have profound implications on a large scale for the people who live daily with these devices, who without thinking, will place their phone in their shirt pocket or upper pocket or their coat – not knowing that it can cause their defibrillator or pacemaker to function in a way that could potentially be lethal.”

Apple warns clearly:

Medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators might contain sensors that respond to magnets and radios when in close contact. 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). But consult with your physician and your device manufacturer for specific guidelines.

It seems if you are one of the millions of people with implantable hardware it would be sensible to take the warning seriously.

See Dr Singh talk about the study below:

via MacRumors

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