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IPad2 poses risks to those with pacemakers, 14-year-old girl discovers

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 13th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The scientific and medical community is somewhat chagrined. Fourteen-year-old Gianna Chien found that the popular iPad 2 tablet could interfere with life-saving devices due to the magnets contained in the tablet. Presenting her findings to 8,000 doctors at the Heart Rhythm Society meeting, Chien's study found that Apple Inc.'s iPad2 can, and her report was based on her science fair findings.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The scientific and medical community is somewhat chagrined. Fourteen-year-old Gianna Chien found that the popular iPad 2 tablet could interfere with life-saving devices due to the magnets contained in the tablet. Presenting her findings to 8,000 doctors at the Heart Rhythm Society meeting, Chien's study found that Apple Inc.'s iPad2 can, and her report was based on her science fair findings.

Adding urgency to the plucky teenager's findings was the fact the discovery didn't even win her first place.

Her research does offer a valuable warning for people with implanted defibrillators, which deliver an electric shock to restart a stopped heart. Theoretically, if a person falls asleep with the iPad2 on the chest, the magnets in the cover can "accidentally turn off" the heart device.

Chien, a high school freshman in Stockton, California, has a father who is a doctor. "I definitely think people should be aware. That's why I'm presenting the study."

As a safety precaution, defibrillators are designed to be turned off by magnets. The iPad2 uses 30 magnets to hold the iPad2's cover in place, Chien said. While the iPad2 magnets aren't powerful enough to cause problems when a person is holding the tablet out in front of the chest, it can be potentially dangerous to rest it against the body, she found.

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller declined to comment on the study in an e-mail, referring questions about the iPad2's safety to its online product guide.

The guide does caution users about radio frequency interference and suggests that patients with pacemakers keep the iPad at least six inches away. Muller says that the iPads should be turned off in health-care facilities when instructed by staff or posted signs.

The study involving 26 volunteers with defibrillators found "magnet mode" was triggered in 30 percent of patients who put the tablet on their chest. The iPad2 didn't interfere with four pacemakers or a loop-recorder, which were also tested. Walter Chien, a cardiac electro physiologist, helped his daughter coordinate the patient testing.

Most defibrillators will turn back on once the magnet is no longer affecting the device. Some -- however, remain off until the magnet is reapplied or the device is turned back on manually, the younger Chien said.

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