If You Have This iPhone, Your Heart Could Be At Risk, FDA Warns
The federal agency warns magnets in the device could pose a potentially serious health risk.
The novelty of all the things your iPhone can do may have worn off years ago, but there's no denying how convenient it can make everyday life. Your phone has even become a popular way to monitor your health and stay on top of certain medical conditions. But according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), there's also a chance that your trusty iPhone could be putting your heart health at risk. Read on to see what the agency's latest research found.
A new study warns that iPhone 12 could be putting your heart at risk if you have a device implanted.
In a press briefing released on Aug. 25, the FDA announced that the results of a recent study it conducted showed that high-powered magnets used in certain devices could create interference with implantable medical devices such as pacemakers and implantable defibrillators. In their research, the team tested all models of the iPhone 12 and Apple Watch 6, finding that they could trigger implants into a potentially dangerous situation.
"Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising the public that some newer consumer electronic devices, such as certain cell phones and smartwatches, have high field strength magnets capable of placing medical devices in their 'magnet mode,'" the agency wrote. "These magnets can affect normal operations of the medical device until the magnetic field is moved."
Other recent studies on iPhone 12 interference with pacemakers led officials to conduct their own test.
The agency clarified in its statement that mounting evidence from researchers had led them to conduct their own study on the potential effects of the iPhone 12 on cardiac implants. "Ensuring the safety of our nation's medical devices is a cornerstone of our consumer protection mission, especially as technology continues to advance," Jeff Shuren, MD, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in the statement. "As part of this work, the agency reviewed recently published articles describing the possibility that certain newer cell phones, smartwatches, 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."
To examine the potential impact smartphones could have, researchers tested all models of the iPhone 12 and Apple Watch 6 against a Medtronic implantable cardiac device (ICD) at different distances. The results upheld previous research, finding that the Apple devices could trigger the ICD into "magnet mode" when placed within six inches of the implant.
Researchers urged everyone with a device to speak to their doctor about avoiding any issues.
The results have led the FDA to provide doctors and patients with more information about the potential complication. "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," Shuren said in the statement. "However, the number of consumer electronics with strong magnets is expected to increase over time."
The agency recommends that anyone with concerns should book some time to speak with their doctor. "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 will continue to monitor the effects of consumer electronics on the safe operation of implanted medical devices," Shuren said.
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You should avoid keeping your phone in your breast pocket if you have a pacemaker or other device.
The most recent FDA research comes as part of a long string of studies, including one conducted by the American Heart Association (AHA) published in June. In a small study testing the iPhone 12's effects on pacemakers and defibrillators, results found that 11 out of 14 devices experienced interference after placing the smartphone close to devices that were both "in vivo" and "ex vivo"—meaning implanted in a patient and recently unboxed, respectively.
As a result, the AHA reminded the public that there are certain ways to use your devices to keep your heart safe. "The American Heart Association and manufacturers of pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators have long recommended that cell phones be used in the ear opposite the side of the body of an implanted device and that the cell phones be kept at least 10 cm away from the device, therefore not in a shirt or coat pocket on the same side as the cardiac device," Mark A. Estes, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellowship Program at the Heart and Vascular Institute of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said in the statement.