Study says iPods can mess with pacemakers

Summary:ComputerWorld has details of a study carried out that suggests that iPods can cause pacemakers to malfunction. But is this an iPod issue or an issue to do with the robustness of pacemakers.

ComputerWorld has details of a study carried out that suggests that iPods can cause pacemakers to malfunction.  But is this an iPod issue or an issue to do with the robustness of pacemakers.

The lead author of the study is Jay Thaker, a 17-year-old student at Okemos High School in Okemos, Michigan (whose father is an electrophysiologist and whose mother is a rheumatologist, so I'm pretty sure he had lots of help ...).  The study found that electrical interference was detected half of the time when the iPod was held just two inches from the patient's chest for 5 -10 seconds.  Interference was detected when the iPod was held 18 inches from the chest and in one case the interference caused the pacemaker to stop functioning altogether.

Now, I don't have the facilities to test this kind of claim (damn it Jim, I'm a PC Doctor, not a doctor ...) but I do have to wonder why the study didn't examine the effects of other media players on pacemakers.  Why pick on the iPod in particular?  Also, I haven't found out what kind of iPod was involved in the study.

But ultimately, I feel that the point is being missed.  It's not so much that iPods mess with pacemakers, but that pacemakers are (if the study is correct) are susceptible to interference from common household devices.  Rather than make it sound like it's an issue to do with iPods, it sounds to me like it's more to do with pacemakers.  Given the fact that we're surrounded by electronic devices, it seems that pacemakers aren't built with this in mind.  I know that older pacemakers were adjusted using magnets and such but modern pacemakers are adjusted digitally using a radio signal so I'd be interested in knowing the mechanism by which iPods can wirelessly mess with a fitted pacemaker.

On a personal note, I'd like to know how Thaker convinced 100 people fitted with pacemakers to help him with this study. 

    "Excuse me, mind if I wave this iPod close to your chest?" 

    "Why?" 

    "Well, to see if it causes your pacemaker to go haywire."

    "OK."

Thoughts?

Topics: Apple

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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