Back in January, the Heart Rhythm Journal published an alarming report stating that the Mag Safe magnetic technology used to connect the iPhone 12 series with Apple and third-party accessories, could shutdown a life-sustaining pacemaker. In a support article written and posted by Apple in January, the tech giant wrote that “Medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators might contain sensors that respond to magnets and radios when in close contact. To avoid any potential interactions with these devices, keep your iPhone and MagSafe accessories a safe distance away from your device (more than 6 inches / 15 cm apart or more than 12 inches / 30 cm apart if wirelessly charging).”
On Thursday, the FDA issued a press release that repeated a quote from Jeff Shuren, M.D., J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. Dr. Shuren said that after reading articles like the one in the Heart Rhythm Journal, the FDA decided to do its own testing to determine whether “high field strength magnets may temporarily affect the normal operation of implanted electronic medical devices, such as pacemakers and implantable defibrillators.” According to the FDA’s own testing, “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.”
Strong magnets hold the MagSafe charger to the back of an iPhone 12
But that doesn’t mean that everyone is home free. The FDA is concerned that the number of consumer devices containing strong, powerful magnets is expected to increase over time, and recommends that those with an implanted medical device discuss the situation with their health care provider. Dr. Shuren says that the agency “will continue to monitor the effects of consumer electronics on the safe operation of implanted medical devices.”
The FDA also had some tips to prevent situations when a strong field magnet placed in a consumer device goes into “magnet mode,” which can affect the normal operations of medical devices. The agency suggests that those with consumer gear like smartphones and smartwatches keep their devices at least six inches away from the medical equipment implanted in their bodies. In addition, the FDA also says that consumer electronics should not be kept in a pocket placed over the implanted medical equipment.