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Do hybrid automobiles emit electromagnetic fields that put pacemaker and ICD wearers at risk?

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) affecting pacemakers and ICDs (implantable cardioverter defibrillators) is a big concern for physicians and their patients considering or undergoing implantation of a heart device. Hazards can be found in the home or workplace and should be identified as soon as possible to mitigate the risks to the device wearer.

One arena that should be considered is a bridge between home and work and that is the automobile. Car mechanisms can create electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that can impair the operation of a heart device. With the growing availability and popularity of hybrid automobiles, the opportunity of EMI widens.

According to the blog of  Dr. Westby G. Fisher, MD, practicing at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Illinois and a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine,

“There’s been some recent reports of people returning their Toyota Prius or Camry Hybrid, Lexus GS450h, or other newer hybrid cars due to fears over interference with these cars’ “smart keys” (which detect when the key is within three feet of the car) and pacemaker or automatic defibrillators. … if a pacemaker or defibrillator were sufficiently close to one of these antennas, then there could be the potential for interference.” (Emphasis added.)

Honda hybrid motor

Heart device wearers should use caution near car motors.

The doctor checked with the three leading manufacturers of heart devices, Medtronic, St. Jude and Boston Scientific. He concludes:

“In summary, with smart keys, there seems to be a consensus that the risk of interference with pacemakers and defibrillators is low, especially if the smart key is not left near the device (i.e., in a shirt pocket). Regarding interference with the electric motor components of hybrid cars, two manufacturers  have recommendations regarding being too near the engine and that operating a hybrid car should be quite safe, as long as the operator with a pacemaker or defibrillator does not try to become a mechanic for their own car.”

While the risk may be categorized as low, it depends on proximity to the source of the EMF. How close is too close? Each patient and condition is unique and so the answer to that question may vary. Many physicians and manufacturers suggest an EMF site survey be completed for the home and workplace of patients before returning after implantation. With the questions surrounding potential hazards with hybrid motors and smart keys, this bridge between the two should be assessed as well.

Experienced professionals at EMF Testing Services can assess home, work and of course, your hybrid automobile. Complete and easy-to-understand reports are provided to clearly identify any hazards and make recommendations for the safety of the patient, to provide assurances for the employer and for the knowledge of the treating physician. Call (800) 862-9655 or email info@EMFtesting.net for more information.

–Elaine of the EMF Testing Services Blog Team

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