Apple iPad2 users with bad hearts: proceed with caution

We’ve all seen those airline passengers staring into their iPads as they devour bestsellers by David Sedaris and Amanda Knox. And they’re millions more of them in waiting rooms, train stations and outdoor plazas at lunchtime, all  clutching the tablets close to their chests.

They might not want to clutch them quite so close.

Aspiring California scientist Gianna Chien, 14, has come up with one whopper of a discovery after completing a recent science project, according to a Bloomberg News report:

 

Gianna Chien is somewhat different from all the other researchers reporting on their work today to more than 8,000 doctors at the Heart Rhythm Society meeting.

Chien is 14, and her study — which found that Apple Inc.’s iPad2 can, in some cases, interfere with life-saving heart devices because of the magnets inside — is based on a science-fair project that didn’t even win her first place.

Here’s the skinny from Chien:

If a person falls asleep with the iPad2 on the chest, the magnets in the cover can “accidentally turn off” the heart device, said Chien, a high school freshman in Stockton, California, whose father is a doctor. “I definitely think people should be aware. That’s why I’m presenting the study.”

While an Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the story, Bloomberg quoted real-live experts saying that, yes, holding the tablet directly on the chest can cause problems with heart-rhythm devices and that users should beware:

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.

How could this happen? Chien, who has an iPad2 of her own,  explained that:

defibrillators, as a safety precaution, 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 risky to rest it against the body, she found.

 

Patrick May Patrick May (308 Posts)

With more than 30 years on the front line of daily American journalism, I'm currently a staff writer with the San Jose Mercury News, covering Apple and writing people-centric business stories from Silicon Valley.