Killer iPods ?

Andre Kesteloot andre.kesteloot at
Mon May 14 10:04:52 CDT 2007

*Attack of the Killer iPods?* 
FRED J. AUN - MacNewsWorld

A study from the Thoracic and Cardiovascular Institute at Michigan State 
University has raised concerns about the possibility that iPods could 
cause pacemakers to fail. Are iPods, which work in ways that are 
essentially very similar to many other MP3 devices, being unfairly 
singled out? Are they any more dangerous than cell phones, for instance, 
which actively broadcast signals?

The headlines were rather scary.

A study found that Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) Latest News about Apple iPods 
can cause pacemakers to malfunction.

The articles reporting this news arose from a presentation made at the 
Heart Rhythm Society's annual meeting in Denver this week. Those 
attending the meeting heard that electrical interference of pacemakers 
was found about 50 percent of the time when an iPod was held within 
several inches of a patient's chest for five to ten seconds.

Sometimes, iPods were found to interfere with the implanted devices even 
when they were held 18 inches away, said the reports. One time, a 
pacemaker completely stopped functioning, reported one article.

Why Just iPod?

Although the study was conducted at the Thoracic and Cardiovascular 
Institute at Michigan State University and overseen by Dr. Krit 
Jongnarangsin, assistant professor in the department of internal 
medicine at the University of Michigan, its author, Jay Thaker, is a 
17-year-old high school student.

That alone isn't what's causing a number of gadget lovers to cry "foul." 
Although the study did not test other portable music players, its 
results could be misconstrued to suggest iPods are more dangerous for 
pacemaker wearers than are other electronic gadgets.

Neither Jongnarangsin nor Thaker could be reached for comment or to 
clarify whether their research determined which pacemakers were most 

Older pacemakers would perhaps be more susceptible to electromagnetic 
field disturbances than would newer models. Those fields surround us, 
after all, and they are probably getting stronger every time another 
person gets a cell phone.

Then there's the whole iPod thing. One wonders if, say, a Microsoft Zune 
would also alter the pace of a pacemaker. The people most likely to make 
that point would be Apple, but iPod division spokesperson Tom Neumayr 
declined to comment for this story.

The Xerox of MP3 Players?

One thing the report might prove is that "iPod" is steadily becoming a 
generic word for "portable music player." One might not blame the 
journalists for it this time, since the study authors did use Apple's 
players only, though stories about portable music players often refer to 
all such devices as "iPods."

"As electronic devices permeate our space, we will likely increasingly 
focus on how they affect each other," Enderle Group Principal Analyst 
Rob Enderle told MacNewsWorld. "We've certainly seen concerns by the FAA 
(Federal Aviation Administration), which asks that devices be turned off 
during the critical take-off and landing portions of a flight and have 
known for some time that hospitals don't want cell phones running near 
critical monitoring equipment."

The fact that people tend to lump all MP3 players under the iPod label 
could be seen as a good thing for Apple, particularly if one buys into 
the "all publicity is good publicity" theory. However, it would be 
wrong, said Enderle, to suggest Apple's ubiquitous music players are 
more dangerous than other companies' versions and, for that matter, 
wireless gadgets by any maker.

"The iPod is most often chosen because it is the most prevalent, but 
wireless devices are probably the most dangerous because they actively 
broadcast," he said. "In all cases, it would be wise for the industry to 
get more aggressive at shielding because we are becoming more dependent 
on electronics and thus more at risk if one device creates problems for 
any other, particularly if that other device is in charge of keeping us 

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