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  1. #1


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    Question Heart-Stopping iPods
    The "news" that iPods can interfere with pacemakers is all over the place, but I can't find anything about it on these forums. (It isn't a personal concern.)

    Are there any knowledgeable people on this site who have any idea whether this is overblown? It appears that every story references the same one, along with the same experiment, and no one has investigated or even questioned the experiment's rigour, or if it isn't hype, how to block the stray signals.

    If it's true, it isn't only iPods that would cause the problem, and this is mentioned in some of the stories. But of course the popularity of iPods singles them out, and now it's become fodder for the FUD machines.

    No story goes beyond the so-called potential dangers. No story that I found cites a single example of anyone living in the day-to-day world being affected. It reminds me of the "sky-is-falling" stories when a computer lab creates a Mac virus that could only be spread to Macs that are carted into the lab.

    We live at the bottom of an ocean of electrical/radio signals. Plenty of attention is paid to stopping radio interference, from cars and phones and computer speakers to the Hubble Space Telescope. If pacemakers are so susceptible, their manufacturers would have been sued out of existence decades ago. (But I have an aunt with a pacemaker who won't have a microwave oven in her home.)

    How difficult could it be to shield pacemakers? None of the iPod horror stories I've seen address this, because I suspect pacemakers must be shielded at least as well as the ignition systems in '52 Studebakers. Otherwise, every Starbucks would be a killing field, and people would be dropping dead at airports bathed in a zillion signals, or even when opening garage doors.

    What's the scoop?

  2. #2

    mraya's Avatar
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    The the study lacks of several key details...
    - Population is too small.
    - Population used is not at direct risk, they are not iPod users.
    - There is no information about the pacemakers, older pacemakers are supossed to be more sensitive to EM fields.
    - There is no detail on what effect did the "failure" had in the patient, in one case the pacemaker stopped but, is the person alive? death? coma? happy and enjoying ice cream? afraid of Frank Sinatra?
    - The study was not carried out at the adecuate level, it looks like a high school project.
    - FCC hasn't said anything about it.
    - Should i continue?

    This study is not enough. EM fields do affect sensitive electronic devices, not just pacemakers, if i remember correctly cellphones where prohibited at hospitals for some time due to such risk, but this is far from being an iPod-only problem as many reports want the public to believe. If Apple sells iPods, then news about iPods sell too.
    [is pointless to click here]

  3. #3


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    Quote Originally Posted by mraya View Post
    There is no detail on what effect did the "failure" had in the patient, in one case the pacemaker stopped but, is the person alive? death? coma? happy and enjoying ice cream? afraid of Frank Sinatra? . . . Should i continue?
    Please! I love the laughs!

  4. #4


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    "We set the headphones on their shoulders so we didn't blow out their eardrums," he said, and then turned up the Frank Sinatra tunes.
    Something about this seems to lack "rigorous" "peer-reviewed" "scientific".

  5. #5

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    Many electronic devices affect pacemakers, including mobile phones. The words "Apple Bashing" spring to mind.
    [URL="http://beadia.net"]Beadia[/URL - Jewelry Business Management Software]
    I judge you when you use poor grammar.

  6. #6

    johntalin's Avatar
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    One of those "let's make news" when something is not certain.
    "Do all the good you can... In all the ways you can... In all the places you can... At all the times you can... To all the people you can... As long as you ever can..." ~ Rules of Conduct

  7. #7

    fleurya's Avatar
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    People always aim for the biggest target. Since the name iPod is almost synonymous with mp3 players, they will single them out. Kinda of like Kleenex and tissue paper; everyone calls it Kleenex even if it's made by Scott or some other paper product manufacturer. It's almost a complement!

  8. #8

    mraya's Avatar
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    I was hoping to get more information about this, but i'm lazy, so enjoy this FAQ from St. Jude Medical...

    http://www.sjm.com/procedures/proced...on&section=FAQ
    [is pointless to click here]

  9. #9

    Village Idiot's Avatar
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    It's not exactly apple bashing. It was an experiment done by a high school senior with help from a university medical department. It showed that iPods can cause interference that can negatively affect a pacemaker.

    It's the same thing with cell phones and other device. It's not like the target demographic of people that Apple market to are geriatrics with pace makers, but iPods are getting more popular and they're like cell phones, soon they'll be every where. It's kind of hard to ignore the fact that cell phone signals can adversly affect a pacemaker's operation, since every one and their grandfather have one.

    The thing that I think is wied is that it's an mp3 player and unlike cell phones, they shouldn't have a strong enough out going signal to cause any harm. They don't have any kind of wireless devices or radio devices in them, basically just a hard drive that has mp3 player software installed. I'd expect a Zune to be more dangerous as it does have wireless connectivity.

    And it's not like you're going to wake up and say "I think I'll try an experiment with the sansa 64mb micro drive...." I mean, does any one actually own anything besides an iPo?
    Chaotic Evil, Level 1 IT-Tech

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  10. #10


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    Quote Originally Posted by mraya View Post
    . . . so enjoy this FAQ from St. Judas Medical...
    This one brought a laugh:
    Talk to your doctor if you have to undergo the following medical procedures:
    • External defibrillation

  11. #11

    mraya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Village Idiot View Post
    ...It showed that iPods can cause interference that can negatively affect a pacemaker.
    The study showed that iPods can affect pacemakers. There is no enough information to call it a negative effect, as i mentioned before, more important than anything is to register the clinical effect. Here we already have a problem, the press is giving the idea the iPod is bad for pacemakers when the study only showed interference, again, without having all the required data to make that assumption.

    Quote Originally Posted by Village Idiot View Post
    ...It's kind of hard to ignore the fact that cell phone signals can adversly affect a pacemaker's operation, since every one and their grandfather have one.
    Is interesting to notice that patients with pacemakers aren't adviced to avoid cellphones, just not to keep them in close proximity with the devices. Again, the articles give the idea that if you have a pacemaker you should avoid using an iPod, while, if all this data is correct, having it in a different pocket would solve all your problems.

    Quote Originally Posted by Village Idiot View Post
    I'd expect a Zune to be more dangerous as it does have wireless connectivity.
    The reason why wireless development takes time is beacuse all this factors are considered, especially in the U.S. (due to legal issues). With that said, i wouldn't expect the Zune to have a "worse" effect due to the wireless option but due to the bigger LCD, bigger LCDs cause more interference. If i wanted to theorize a little too much i would say that the metal cover the iPods have would increase its chance to affect the pacemaker reading activity, but that would be too much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Village Idiot View Post
    And it's not like you're going to wake up and say "I think I'll try an experiment with the sansa 64mb micro drive...."
    If you don't want your study to be biassed that is exactly what you should do.

    This isn't Apple bashing, this is just selling news. Also, this isn't impossible, but this is not the way to probe it.
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  12. #12

    fleurya's Avatar
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    St. Judas Medical
    Whoa! Did you mean St. Jude?

    Edit!!!!

  13. #13


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    Quote Originally Posted by fleurya View Post
    People always aim for the biggest target. Since the name iPod is almost synonymous with mp3 players, they will single them out. Kinda of like Kleenex and tissue paper; everyone calls it Kleenex even if it's made by Scott or some other paper product manufacturer. It's almost a complement!
    Some people are pretty stupid too:

    Conversation I overheard on my bus between two guys:

    "Hey, can you borrow your MP3 player?"
    "I don't have an MP3 Player. I have an iPod."
    "Whatever same thing."
    "No it's not."
    "Dude, an iPod is an MP3 player, it's just a brand of an MP3 Player" (I like this kid )
    "No, MP3's won't play on iPods..."

    This conversation went on for a long time.

  14. #14

    Village Idiot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mraya View Post
    The study showed that iPods can affect pacemakers. There is no enough information to call it a negative effect, as i mentioned before, more important than anything is to register the clinical effect. Here we already have a problem, the press is giving the idea the iPod is bad for pacemakers when the study only showed interference, again, without having all the required data to make that assumption.



    Is interesting to notice that patients with pacemakers aren't adviced to avoid cellphones, just not to keep them in close proximity with the devices. Again, the articles give the idea that if you have a pacemaker you should avoid using an iPod, while, if all this data is correct, having it in a different pocket would solve all your problems.



    The reason why wireless development takes time is beacuse all this factors are considered, especially in the U.S. (due to legal issues). With that said, i wouldn't expect the Zune to have a "worse" effect due to the wireless option but due to the bigger LCD, bigger LCDs cause more interference. If i wanted to theorize a little too much i would say that the metal cover the iPods have would increase its chance to affect the pacemaker reading activity, but that would be too much.



    If you don't want your study to be biassed that is exactly what you should do.

    This isn't Apple bashing, this is just selling news. Also, this isn't impossible, but this is not the way to probe it.
    First of all, any evidence showing that an iPod can make a pacemaker act in any way other than the desired effect is negative.

    Next, if you have a pacemaker you would probably be aware of the inherent dangers of electronic devices an how they could hurt the pacemaker. I'm sure they don't cut you open, put it in, and sew you up before kicking you out without giving you a lot of information on the device...I mean, it could mean life or death. They may, for all intents and purposes, be asked to stay away from any electronical equipment that may caus einterference, including iPods, cellphones, microwaves, and other devices.

    And why would a Zune not cause more damage with the fact that it transfers some kind of wave, be it radio or what ever, where an iPod is a more passive device?
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  15. #15

    mraya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Village Idiot View Post
    First of all, any evidence showing that an iPod can make a pacemaker act in any way other than the desired effect is negative.
    Again, what was the effect in the patient? did the "misreadings" mentioned altered the function of the pacemaker, did they altered the its frequency? in the case of the one that "stopped" was there any further study to see if the iPod was responsible? did they discarded any intrinsic malfunction? are this problems within the expected range of function?...

    Quote Originally Posted by Village Idiot View Post
    Next, if you have a pacemaker you would probably be aware of the inherent dangers of electronic devices an how they could hurt the pacemaker. I'm sure they don't cut you open, put it in, and sew you up before kicking you out without giving you a lot of information on the device...I mean, it could mean life or death. They may, for all intents and purposes, be asked to stay away from any electronical equipment that may caus einterference, including iPods, cellphones, microwaves, and other devices.
    Did you read the link i posted before? There is a nice editorial article published in Heart, 2001, vol. 86, it is currently free if you want to read it.

    From Electromagnetic interference in patients with implanted pacemakers or cardioverter-defibrillators
    M. Niehaus, J. Tebbenjohanns

    Recommendations for patients implanted with pacemakers or ICDs
    x Common household equipment—No special precautions for pacemaker and ICD patients in the use of microwaves or other common household equipment such as televisions, radios, toasters, and electric blankets.
    x Airport screening devices—No special precautions for pacemaker and ICD patients. The metal cases may be detected by the screening devices. Patients should carry their device identification card for the purpose of
    obtaining security clearance.
    x Cellular phones—It is inadvisable for the patient to place a cellular telephone that is switched on in a coat pocket overlying the pulse generator or ICD. The use of cellular phones does not appear to pose a significant health risk to patients with implanted permanent pacemakers or ICDs as long as the cellular telephone is kept at least 10 cm away from the pacemaker, preferably next to the contralateral ear.
    x Electronic article surveillance systems—Avoid prolonged exposure to electronic article surveillance systems, lingering within the surveillance gates, and direct contact with the gates.
    There are of course situations that will interfere with the pacemaker, like magnetic resonance or electrocautery devices, but this are serious sorces of magnetism and electricity, nothing you can compare to household appliances or portable devices.

    Quote Originally Posted by Village Idiot View Post
    And why would a Zune not cause more damage with the fact that it transfers some kind of wave, be it radio or what ever, where an iPod is a more passive device?
    You may find that it isn't the wave but the frequency, for example GSM are more likely to affect pacemakers than TDMA. Still, i'm sorry if i wasn't clear, i'm not assuring that the Zune would be harmless, i'm talking about possibilities. Still, wireless is considered a safe, well studied technology, we would have heard about it affecting pacemakers long ago if it indeed affect them, PDAs have used 802.11b for a while now. For other radio signals, read the part of the article i posted.
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