By Alexandra Burlacu | May 10, 2013 11:16 AM EDT
The tiny magnets inside the iPad can apparently turn off implanted defibrillators, if the iPad rests on one's chest, a 14-year-old found out.
As it turns out, if someone wearing a pacemaker falls asleep with an iPad lying on his/her chest, the Apple tablet may inadvertently play a cruel prank. Magnets and implanted defibrillators don't make good friends!
Apple builds such magnets into every iPad it sells so the tablet works with its Smart Cover Accessory. Fourteen-year-old Gianna Chien made the discovery as part of a science fair project. She didn't win first place, but she will nonetheless present her findings to 8,000 doctors at a meeting of the Heart Rhythm Society in Denver, Bloomberg reports.
"The research offers a valuable warning for people with implanted defibrillators, which deliver an electric shock to restart a stopped heart, said John Day, head of heart-rhythm services at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, and chairman of the panel that reviews scientific papers to be presented at the Denver meeting," reads the report.
"If a person falls asleep with the iPad 2 on the chest, the magnets on the cover can 'accidentally turn off' the heart device," said Chien, a high school freshman in Stockton, Calif., whose father is a doctor. "I definitely think people should be aware. That's why I'm presenting the study."
Defibrillators are designed to turn off when near magnets as a safety precaution. The iPad 2 uses 30 magnets to hold the Smart Cover in place. The magnets contained in the iPad are too small to affect implanted defibrillators, known as pacemakers, in normal use, but can have a negative effect if held close enough to the chest.
According to Chien's study, as much as 30 percent of patients with implanted defibrillators who placed iPads on their chest were affected by the magnets in the device. Most defibrillators will turn off, then back on once the magnet is moved away, but some pacemakers require manual reactivation. The latter case could cause a potentially life-threatening situation.
Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller declined to comment on the matter, pointing to the online product guide for the iPad 2 for any safety-related concerns, Bloomberg further notes. The guide does caution users about radio frequency interference and suggests that users with pacemakers keep the iPad at least six inches away. The guide further recommends turning off the iPad in health-care facilities when instructed by staff or posted signs.
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