/ Health, Home & Energy

Do induction hobs interfere with pacemakers?

More of us are deciding to buy induction hobs when replacing our old hob or cooker. But did you know that they could interfere with some pacemakers?

In our last survey, 15% of Which? members told us that they’d already embraced induction cooking.

And I expect that, when my current ceramic electric model reaches the end of its natural life, I’ll be going down this route too. Especially as you can now get a Best Buy induction hob for less than £250.

Induction hobs and pacemakers

However, a Which? member got in touch with us to share that they’d recently returned their newly purchased induction hob when they found out it could interfere with pacemakers.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) recommends – based on academic findings – that people with a pacemaker should get no closer than 60cm from an induction hob.

This is due to electromagnetic induction. Inside an induction hob is a coil of metal. When you turn on the power, an alternating current flows through it. This produces a magnetic field but no heat. Once you put a suitable pan on top, the magnetic field induces whirling electrical currents (eddy currents) inside the pan’s metallic structure. These currents transfer their energy, so the metal pan gets hot and heats up whatever’s inside it.

The electromagnetic field that’s generated may, according to the BHF, interfere with pacemaker settings. Academic evidence suggests a hob wouldn’t cause a catastrophic change to the pacemaker, but there are many types of pacemakers and not all are affected in the same way.

Advice on using induction hobs

Clearly it makes sense to ask when your pacemaker is fitted what advice the pacemaker manufacturer gives regarding the appliances we use in everyday life. Induction hob manufacturers usually also give advice about this in their instruction manuals.

Are you shopping for an induction hob? Were you aware of the BHF’s recommendations about not getting too close to them with pacemakers? Do you think induction hob manufacturers should flag this up more prominently?

Comments

Electromagnet Compatibility standards are there to prevent one device interfering with another, I wonder whether they are adequate in the case of hobs and pacemakers. This has been raised earlier but have Which? asked the experts this question? BSI would be my first port of call.

That’s my concern too, Malcolm. In other Conversations we have heard of radio interference caused by LED lamps despite the fact that the latter are supposed to comply with standards.

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Duncan thanks for that link.

I may be guilty of quoting it selectively but it does include the text “according to the World Health Authority, there is no compelling evidence of medium frequency magnetic fields having long term effects on health”.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any, but if there are, they must be hard to discern (as the link between smoking and cancer used to be).

One of my motorcycling buddies unfortunately died from cancer several years ago. As a self-employed motor mechanic, he had been an early adopter of GSM mobile phones and it was speculated at the time that the radiation fields from mobiles might cause cancer (and thus might have called his illness and death). I don’t think it has ever been proved that this cannot be the case, but these days we seem to be content that any such risks are either small or non-existent. Hence most folk are content to use mobile phones, without worrying about these risks.

Cooking on a hob is an inherently dangerous activity – no matter how you heat the hob.

Given the specific potential risks to pacemaker users, I think the BHF advice on induction hobs is sound and it also good that Which? recognises the need to qualify their endorsement of these products.

I share Duncan’s concerns that we don’t know about manufacturing standards. When this Conversation was published I looked for peer reviewed scientific articles about the safety of induction hobs and found nothing. Checking again, I still find none.

As Derek points out, it’s very difficult to establish risks associated with new technologies. Despite considerable concern about the safety of mobile phones the biggest danger is probably distraction of users, especially when driving.

One of the weaknesses of standards is that they set minimum requirements and there is no incentive to exceed these. I don’t have an induction hob, but it would make sense to buy one that emitted less RF.

“One of the weaknesses of standards is that they set minimum requirements and there is no incentive to exceed these”

This is the whole point of an agreed international safety standard – it sets the basic elements of safety that all products must comply with. Manufacturers are free to incorporate further features, and many do. This approach ensures that we don’t rely upon individual manufacturers simply using their own standards; I think we know the consequences if this were to happen. For decades this has provided consumer protection.

I stand by what I said, Malcolm. The Euro NCAP tests provide safety ratings for cars and a good rating can be used to advertise a safer product. If induction hobs had safety ratings one of the main criteria would be the amount of electromagnetic radiation emitted. Hopefully manufacturers would compete to produce models with better scores.

Of course the testing must be done under standard conditions, not like the fuel economy tests for cars where the manufacturers are allowed to tape up the doors and over-inflate the tyres. 🙁

There is a difference between safety standards, that give standards of safety that the relevant products must at least meet, and that cover many aspects of a products safety for example that must all be met, and a performance standard. Some – maybe many – products are covered by other standards as well as a safety standard. EMC deals with how products both respond to another product and how they affect another product, the objective being they do not inter-react in an unacceptable way. There is nothing to stop a manufacturer of an induction hob comparing the radiation emitted with the maximum allowed, if that is the point, providing measuring conditions are the same. That might allow a savvy customer to make a judgement, Whether a star rating, as NCAP, would help better, maybe. NCAP is underpinned, I believe, by minimum legal standards.

I certainly understand the issue of interaction between products, which greatly complicates matters. Pacemakers can be well screened but the attached leads can pick up RF, so it’s vital to minimise the RF emissions by induction hobs, microwave ovens, etc.

I’m not aware of any manufacturers that compare RF emissions with standards, whereas NCAP ratings are well used by some car manufacturers.

I have attended courses where everyone who attended received a certificate, without any indication of actual performance in tasks. In contrast – when I was teaching – students received marks for every piece of work and each year were provided with an official transcript showing their performance in each module. Graduates can use this information in addition to their degree classification to help get decent jobs. Which? gives ratings to guide subscribers towards choosing better products.

I have trawled a few websites and do not see any reference to induction hobs exceeding current standards for RF emissions. That does not give me much confidence.

Not my field but I presume this is one relevant document:
BS ISO 14117:2012. Active implantable medical devices. Electromagnetic compatibility. EMC test protocols for implantable cardiac pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators and cardiac resynchronization devices.
Published Date: 31/03/2013 Status: Current

malcolm whiteman says:
17 October 2018

I have an implanted heart monitor (not a pacemaker) in my chest,will using an induction oven hob put me in any sort of danger ?

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just bought a table top induction hob at Lidls. The sort that a student might use. £29.99. Their owm brand Silvercrest. The booklet says to keep electrical devices, computer storage, pacemakers and mobile phones one meter away (when in operation I assume, but safe when not). Also say do not stand it on a metal (ferrous?…aluminium may be okay?) surface, as it may heat up. It is a small hib, and I guess any ferrous metal within that one meter zone could heat, or warm up. Beware metal keys or pens, or you trousers zip???

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Why is it only ever Pace Makers people are worried about. You go to the Physio Department at the hospital and they have signs up saying if you have a Pace maker tell the Physio so they dont use certain equipment but I and more people nowadays are having batteries fitted in other parts of our bodies. I have got a Spinal Cord Stimulator which has got wire running up my spine and the battery is situated just below my belt line. Hardly anyone has heard of these or understand how they work. I have to charge myself up every day with a little disc I put over the battery. I am not allowed anywhere near magnets at all and there is a long list of medical procedures I cant have but you never see these mentioned anywhere and because of this some people will think they are safe to buy induction hobs or have procedures at the physios. It is worse for us because were our batteries are in relation to the height of the hobs. We can have great fun setting of shop exit alarms if they are at the right frequency as we have no choice but to go through them so we have to carry a card. Is it worth it yes to be relatively pain free and off Morphine.