14-year-old discovers iPads can be dangerous to heart patients


As Apple has proven in its TV ads, you can use a number of words to describe its products. But I imagine it never thought that one of those words would be “dangerous.” According to new research, though, that’s exactly what the iPad is for certain heart patients.

A 14 year-old has discovered that the tiny magnets inside Apple’s tablet, used for Smart Covers, can inadvertently shut off a heart patient’s implanted defibrillator–a battery-powered electrical impulse generator— if near their chest for an extended period of time…

Bloomberg reports:

“Chien is 14, and her study — which found that Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPad2 can, in some cases, interfere with life-saving heart devices because of the magnets inside — is based on a science-fair project that didn’t even win her first place.”

The research offers an invaluable warning for people with implanted defibrillators, which are intended to deliver an electric shock to a patient to restart a stopped heart. As a safety precaution, though, these impulse generators are designed to be deactivated by magnets.

“Defibrillators, as a safety precaution, are designed to be turned off by magnets. The iPad2 uses 30 magnets to hold the iPad2’s cover in place, Chien said. While the iPad2 magnets aren’t powerful enough to cause problems when a person is holding the tablet out in front of the chest, it can be risky to rest it against the body, she found.”

Chien’s study found that 30% of patients with defibrillators were affected by putting an iPad on their chest. And while most units will automatically turn back on once the magnet is removed, some must be reactivated manually, which could cause serious problems.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the study, referring questions about the iPad 2’s safety to its product safety guide. But the only caution the guide mentions is that pacemaker patients hold the tablet 6-inches away from their chest to avoid radio frequency interference.