After investigation, FDA says patient risk is low when it comes to MagSafe and iPhone pacemaker interference

There are powerful magnets in a lot of different consumer devices, especially smartphones and other smart devices. As such, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been investigating if many of these devices can cause major issues for individuals with pacemakers and similar medical devices.

Earlier this week, the FDA issued a press release (via 9to5Mac) saying it is continuing to monitor the effects of magnets in consumer products related to implanted medical devices. The release is meant to provide information to those curious about how consumer products can potentially impact implanted medical devices. Of note, the FDA does say that keeping these devices six inches away from the implanted medical apparatus is a good idea.

However, when it comes to the iPhone range, including the iPhone 12, and MagSafe wireless charging, the FDA’s investigation has found that these pose a low risk to patients. The organization adds that it is “not aware of any adverse events associated with this issue at this time.”

magsafe attached to back of iPhone

The FDA does say that some precautions are worth noting:

  • Keeping consumer electronics, such as certain cell phones and smart watches, six inches away from implanted medical devices.
  • Refraining from carrying consumer electronics in a pocket over the medical device.
  • Talking to your health care provider if you have questions regarding magnets in consumer electronics and implanted medical devices.

The release adds:

Ensuring the safety of our nation’s medical devices is a cornerstone of our consumer protection mission, especially as technology continues to advance. As part of this work, the agency reviewed recently published articles describing the possibility that certain newer cell phones, smart watches and other consumer electronics with high field strength magnets may temporarily affect the normal operation of implanted electronic medical devices, such as pacemakers and implantable defibrillators. Based on our review, we decided to conduct our own testing to confirm and help inform appropriate recommendations for patients and consumers.

As a result of these actions, today we’re taking steps to provide information for patients and health care providers to ensure they are aware of potential risks and can take simple proactive and preventative measures. We believe the risk to patients is low and the agency is not aware of any adverse events associated with this issue at this time. However, the number of consumer electronics with strong magnets is expected to increase over time. Therefore, we recommend people with implanted medical devices talk with their health care provider to ensure they understand this potential risk and the proper techniques for safe use.

The FDA says that it will continue to monitor the situation, especially as even more consumer products with powerful magnets are released in the future.

Earlier this year, the Heart Rhythm Journal released findings from a medical study that showed the iPhone 12 equipped with MagSafe may cause issues with pacemakers. And, indeed, Apple admitted that that is indeed the case. But the company also noted that the iPhone 12 does not “pose a greater risk of magnetic interference to medical devices than prior iPhone models.”

Good things to be aware of, even if the risk of potential permanent damage remains low.