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May 11, 2013

Apple's iPad2 heart risk found in research by 14-year-old

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

Chien is 14, and her study — which found that Apple'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.

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.

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, Calif., whose father is a doctor. "I definitely think people should be aware. That's why I'm presenting the study."

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 in a telephone interview. 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.

Trudy Muller, an Apple spokeswoman, declined to comment on the study in an email, referring questions about the iPad2's safety to its online product guide. The guide cautions users about radio frequency interference, suggests that patients with pacemakers keep the iPad at least six inches away and says they should be turned off in health-care facilities when instructed by staff or posted signs.

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