With the iPhone 12 series last year, Apple introduced MagSafe on iPhones – a technology that leverages magnets on the smartphone in order to make wireless charging more efficient and less time-consuming. However, with the usage of magnets, came a health concern, especially for those users who have to live with implanted medical devices like a pacemaker. Shortly after the launch of MagSafe, doctors expressed their concerns over MagSafe’s effect on pacemakers in a medical journal. Apple later responded to the report on its support page, saying that the magnets and electromagnetic fields might interfere with medical devices. Apple said that even though the iPhone 12 series comes with more magnets than prior iPhone models, they’re not expected to pose a greater risk of magnetic interference to medical devices than prior iPhone models. Now, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has had its say on the issue, and came to a conclusion that the risk posed by MagSafe to patients with implanted medical devices is low.
FDA conducted its own testing to confirm and help inform about appropriate recommendations for patients and consumers. The FDA said that while the risk is low, the number of consumer electronics with strong magnets is expected to increase over time. Therefore, the agency recommended users to consult with their health providers to ensure they understand the potential risk and proper techniques for safe use. “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 said in a statement.
In its report, FDA also said that the magnets in newer cell phones and other consumer electronic devices (like iPhone 12) can affect normal operations of the medical device until the magnetic field is moved. It also said that many medical devices are designed with a “magnet mode” to allow for safe operation during certain medical procedures, such as undergoing an MRI scan. These safety features are typically initiated with the use of a high field strength magnet that is placed near the implanted device placing it into a “magnet mode.”
FDA further recommended several precautions that people with pacemakers and implantable defibrillators should follow. These include:
- 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 health care provider if you have questions regarding magnets in consumer electronics and implanted medical devices.