A type of magnet, that is currently used in many commercial gadgets may cause visible disturbance in the functioning of certain implanted heart devices, like the pacemaker, with fatal consequences.
Neodymium-iron-boron magnets are very powerful. These magnets were introduced into the market recently and are silver in appearance. They are more magnetic than the more familiar, dull grey iron magnets. Since the cost of production of neodymium magnets are relatively lesser, these magnets are seen to be increasingly used in many hi-fi gadgets like mobile phones and even computer hard drives. It is commercially used in many toys, clothes, and jewellery.
Iron or ferrite magnets cause very little danger. However, neodymium magnets, even when held at a distance of 3 cm from a cardiac patient with an implanted cardiac device can cause fatal results. It can undermine the proper functioning of a pacemaker. This was reported by the Heart Rhythm Journal.
Researchers from the University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, studied the effect of neodymium magnets on heart patients. These cardiac patients had either pacemakers or implanted defibrillators in their heart. The tests revealed that small 8g magnets interfered in the activity of all the implanted devices, irrespective of their type when placed at a distance of 3cm from the devices. Larger magnets may destabilize these devices at even when a greater distance, said the scientists. Extended use of neodymium magnets may cause irrevocable damage to the pacemakers or implanted defibrillators.
The researchers opined that all products that make use of this magnet, should issue a warning, disclosing the health hazards, on the labels. Thomas Wolber, the lead researcher, urged all physicians, to warn their patients of the potential hazards of neodymium magnets in badges, and other personal products that may have these magnets. Those concerned must consult their pacemaker clinic, opined June Davison, of the British Heart Foundation.