Pacemaker Wearers: Watch out for Magnets

Pacemaker Wearers: Watch out for Magnets

A study found that people with implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) or pacemakers should avoid getting too close to the new stronger magnets being used in products such as toys and nametags.

Swiss researchers tested how these new magnets affected of ICDs and pacemakers in 70 patients.

The Test

The investigators placed two magnets measuring 8 and 10 millimeters in diameter on the chests of the 41 patients who had pacemakers, and the rest who had ICDs.

The study found magnetic interference in all the heart devices at distances as great as three centimeters. The interference subsided when the magnets were pulled away.

The study authors expressed concerns that these effects were found using relatively small magnets. “Larger NdFeB magnets are likely to cause interference at greater distance, but no such magnets were investigated, as those magnets have to be handled with care due to strong adhesive force,” they wrote.

The study came with an accompanying editorial in which Huagui Li., from the Minnesota Heart Clinic wrote that NdFeB magnets are becoming increasingly common in everyday items such as nametags, jewelry, clothing, and reading glasses. He wrote that, “The manufacturers that use magnets in these products should be required to put warning labels on their products in order to avoid serious health consequences for pacemaker or ICD patients.”

Not All Magnets are Dangerous

The Swiss investigators explained that most common household magnets do not pose a danger to people with ICDs and pacemakers. It's the newer magnets – neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) magnets – that could interfere with heart device operation because of their much greater strength.

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