Fact or Myth: Should People With Pacemakers Avoid Fridge Magnets?

This is a FACT.

Refrigerator magnets can be cute, but they’re no laughing matter for people with pacemakers or an implanted medical or heart device. In those cases, commonplace fridge magnets can be deadly.

Iron or ferrite magnets—dull grey in color and with low magnetic strength—aren’t the problem. The danger comes from what are known as neodymium magnets, which are now used in many commercial products.neodymium magnets

The Hidden Danger For People With Pacemakers

Neodymium magnets are much stronger than iron or ferrite types. In fact, the magnetic field they give off has enough force to lift a full 22 pounds of weight.

According to an article in Heart Rhythm journal, coming into close contact (about 3 centimeters) with these magnets actually destabilizes heart devices (pacemakers). The larger the magnet, researchers say, the greater the risk…and the greater the chance of interference from a farther away.

Medical devices should work normally once the magnet is removed from range, however, prolonged exposure can lead to permanent damage. Even a single exposure can be fatal, because individuals with heart conditions are susceptible to heart failure. Heart failure can happen at any time the implanted device is not working, and when not addressed in time, heart failure can cause death.

Consequently, the article’s authors suggest manufacturers be required to attach health warnings to their products.

Consumers Beware

Ian Asquith, director of Neodymium Magnets UK, says his company is aware of the threat and sends precautionary warnings out with each magnet. “There is a real danger,” says Asquith. “These magnets are everywhere. They are in lots of badges, fridge magnets, and mobile phones.”

Unfortunately, such warning messages rarely reach people with pacemakers and general consumers, and meanwhile – these magnets are used in an increasing number of products including computer hard drives, headphones, hi-fi speakers, toys, jewelry, and even some clothing items.

Clearly, the chances you might come in contact with a neodymium magnet are quite high, so if you have a pacemaker or an implanted heart or medical device, it’s best to be aware.