/ 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
Member

The design of pacemakers has been improved over the years to make them less likely to be affected by interference. Induction hobs and mobile phones were more of a concern in the past, though it is still recommended to hold a mobile on the opposite side from the pacemaker.

Jane – The photo in your introduction is a ceramic hob rather than an induction hob.

Member

I have to take the blame for that one, Wavechange. I chose the image 🙁 What do you think of the new one? I have a gas cooker at home, so not too used to induction cooking.

Member

Thanks Alex. 🙂

Electromagnetic radiation, whether from induction hobs, microwave ovens, mobile phones or LED lamps obeys the inverse square law, so the intensity falls off rapidly with increasing distance from the source. If you hold a portable radio close to an induction hob, you will probably pick up interference, which will decrease quickly as you move it away.

Member

I was told about not using Microwave oven and my Electric welders and Airport scanners,, but nothing about Hobs,
Anything else.?
I have activated security scanners in supermarkets.
Excuse the pun (It`s a minefield)

Member

Microwaves don’t seem to be a problem, Mike. There may have been a problem with earlier models or it might have been a cautious approach, just like the early warnings about mobile phones.

I don’t know whether or not modern airport security scanners pose a risk, since the time of exposure is short. The embarrassment of setting one off is enough reason to avoid them.

Electric welders are definitely a problem for those with pacemakers, so braise the steak rather than weld it. 🙂

Member

Hi Mike – anything that would emit an electromagnetic field could cause harm to those using a pacemaker.

Member

Andrew – Modern ppacemakers are screened to avoid problems with electromagnetic radiation. The same applies to electronic equipment used in hospitals. I remember the warnings to turn off mobile phones, which have largely disappeared.

With some devices such as mobile phones it has been possible to decrease the electromagnetic radiation. Concerns about safety of phones, especially for children, have driven these improvements and while phones still emit radiation, our government no longer produces leaflets warning about the dangers. Those with pacemakers are advised to hold them on the opposite side of their body.

It is probably difficult to do much to reduce radiation from an induction hob, which depends on emission of electromagnetic radiation, apart from shutting off automatically when a pan is removed.

Close proximity to the source of radiation is the big problem, for example a mobile phone in a shirt pocket.

Member
Trevor young says:
27 March 2016

Hi I have been looking at this having lived with a pm for many yearss and just read a paper from Oxford university press, the smart money it seems is not to use the inductive jobs. I have just had a replacement pm from biotronic with no problems so far . The first one about 15 years ago was affected by interference but I would notice the difference in pacing behaviour and act on what was telling me. Lastly I have a pacemaker card that I show when needed so I don’t have to go through the scanners, usually just telling the guard is enough but at Paris airport they got annoyed that didn’t have the card with me on one occasion.
Hope this helps you discussion
Trev young

Member

I have had two induction cookers and both had the warning regarding pacemakers. I would think the retailer, and the patients advice notes would also cover the situation.

It is astonishing to see that pacemakers have become a very common procedure with over 40,000 fitted in 2012/13 and that in 2009 the 500,000th in the UK was fitted.

Member

If a warning is needed, the obvious place is to put a permanent notice on the induction hob, in the same way that ceramic hobs have a ‘Hob hot’ notice or warning light.

I suspect that the warning is based on earlier designs of pacemaker combined with precaution.

BHF advises keeping 15cm away from a microwave oven.

Member

I am not a great fan of the proliferation of signs as I think that people start to screen out the visual clutter. It is noticeable in France how much less signage they seem to be able to get by with on roads, and at ruins, and at beauty spots.

I was wondering about the proliferation of nut allergy signage and found this excellent document:
https://www.sswahs.nsw.gov.au/rpa/allergy/resources/allergy/peanutallergy.pdf

Member

It’s not just the pacemaker that can be affected by electromagnetic fields – leads from the pacemaker to the heart can also be affected. At first, leads were “unipolar”, having just one conductor and relying on body conductance to complete the electrical circuit from the heart back to the pacemaker. My pacemaker leads are bipolar, each with 2 conductors to provide both required elements of an electric circuit, less likely to be affected by electromagnetic fields than the earlier used unipolar leads. When pacemakers are replaced, usually towards the end of battery life, the replacement pacemaker may be connected to existing implanted leads. If these leads are unipolar, a replacement pacemaker won’t necessarily be as secure as might be perceived. I don’t know when/if the change from unipolar to bilpolar leads became general practice, nor whether a pacemaker designed for use with bipolar leads can be used with unipolar leads. Replacing pacemaker and leads is obviously less straightforward and higher risk than replacing just the pacemaker………

My pacemaker card (as did the card for my first pacemaker) shows makers’ names and serial numbers of my leads, using which I was able to do a web search and find that my 3 leads are bipolar.

My experience on trying to get information about the risk is not good. But if you think about it, pacemaker companies would need a number of pacemaker users to be willing to undergo tests that could only be described as hazardous to life! I expect that the pacemaker manufacturers do undertake tests – for example using pig bodies and some “sample electromagnetic fields” or even computer simulation based on such tests – to give some indication of the likely effects of electromagnetic fields (and whether their latest design under test would be an improvement on their current product range!). But understandably they would be unable to provide wholly reliable advice to health professionals and patients, in part due to the sheer impracticality of trying to test all types of electrical equipment that might conceivably create risk!

The best advice I had came from one of my consultants – avoid powerful electromagnetic fields, particularly from welding equipment (as mentioned by “wavechange”); if you are required to go through an airport or similar detection device, walk through briskly.

A daughter has an induction hob, which came with warnings about pacemakers, in particular about “unipolar pacemakers”. I treat it in the same way as all equipment that can generate powerful electromagnetic fields – keep what seems like a safe distance having regard to the inverse square law mentioned by “wavechange”. If I had unipolar leads I would never be near it when it was on (or likely to be switched on….). If I ever have to use it, it will be off for the short periods when moving pans, stirring, adding ingredients, etc; I’d switch it on and off and adjust heat levels at arms length; I’d keep clear while the cooking itself is going on. I wouldn’t buy one for our own kitchen…..

Please note that I am grateful for my life; if there are some drawbacks to having a pacemaker then I’m going to live with them, with a little care.

Finally, I am a bit surprised at the lack of depth in the Which? report on this – if I can spout on about leads as well as pacemakers, surely the Which? researchers should have picked this up – shoddy work, Which?

Member

As far as I recall from my involvement with EMC, the purpose of the standards and associated tests was to set limits on radiated and conducted radiation to promote Electromagnetic Compatibility. So it laid down limits on the emissions of devices, limits that a potentially affected device should be immune to. The responsibility lies with manufacturers of devices to ensure they neither emit excessive levels, nor respond adversely to stated levels, of electromagnetic radiation.

Member

You obviously don’t have a pacemaker. Great if the “responsibility lies with manufacturers”. Try proving liability after you have snuffed it. I am completely dependent on mine but never needed one before I was admitted to hospital. Lets just say some surgeons are better than others and a blue laser helps.

Member

The point I was making was that devices have to be made and then type tested to show that they do not interfere with one another. Standards are their to ensure this is done properly. Without such standards it would be a disorganised free-for-all.

Member

George – Thanks for this detailed post. That is a very good point about the leads being the Achilles heel when a modern pacemaker is exchanged for an older design.

My impression that the danger of electromagnetic fields may be overstated was because of I cannot find any heavily cited scientific paper or review drawing attention to hazards of household appliances.

Member
jeanie says:
14 February 2015

Visiting my sisters house “come and look at my new induction hob, see this is how it works-then feel it is not hot” close up inspection by me who has the pacemaker. It was only a few weeks later that I read about the need to avoid. I shall not use the hob when we do house swap! In this case a label on the hob would have been the only answer.

Member

A simple technical solution would be to have a proximity sensor that would switch off the hob if a user approached. That feature could be deactivated if not needed.

Member

this link provides information about induction hobs, including advice re pacemakers.
http://www.bag.admin.ch/themen/strahlung/00053/00673/03156/index.html?lang=en

This site looks at other common devices and their effect, or not, on pacemakers.
https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/PreventionTreatmentofArrhythmia/Devices-that-may-Interfere-with-Pacemakers_UCM_302013_Article.jsp

Member

The first article mentions the pacemakers with unipolar leads, as discussed by George. It suggests keeping 5-10cm away from an induction hob, though I’m not sure whether this refers to a bipolar or unipolar pacemaker. It’s the most useful information I have seen so far and mentions the need for the correct size pan with a flat base and placed correctly so that the magnetic coupling is good. I believe some of this is common knowledge, though I’m less sure that users will be aware that using the wrong pan or one in poor condition could mean more electromagnetic radiation.

The other article, which I had seen, does not mention induction hobs.

Member

In old money, 5-10cm is 2″ to 4″. I would have thought that it is very unlikely the pacemaker would get that close at all easily. Would I be correct?

Member

I attached the second article for interest as an aside.

Member

My latest induction hob [5 years old] actually has two panels and the current is only active under the diameter of the pan placed on it. So effectively I can place it anywhere inside the panel say 27cm via 50cm. It can also be split so I have 4 areas [2*2].

The reason I bought it was because of the difficulty in easily seeing the pans position on rings – and also the inflexibility of the ring system.

Member

I have not paid much attention to induction hobs, but having a clear white ring against the dark background would help with correct positioning of pans.

Member

wc – I have had experience of induction hobs and my first one did indeed have white rings and that is why I made the commnt.

Member

Many thanks for everyone’s comments about this issue. It seems that manufacturer warnings about induction hobs and pacemakers are more widespread than I thought – which is good to hear.

Just a note regarding the role of a Which? Convo. The purpose of them is very much as a conversation starter, where we hope to learn about people’s experiences in various areas that affect the consumer.

They do not aim to be in-depth pieces of research. Sometimes we use them to offer advice to the consumer but in this case it’s your experiences we are after.

Do keep the responses coming and the conversation going. If it seems relevant to enough people then it could become something that the Which? editor agrees should be fully researched and featured in the magazine.

Member

Jane, whilst I understand that Which? itself cannot research all these topics there is clearly a need in many of them for informed, expert responses to some of the issues raised by contributors. Cannot Which? approach those organisations or people to contribute? Apart from providing, hopefully, facts they might also give a view (from, say, manufacurers’ organisations, retailers, regulators) that could add balance to a conversation – even though we may not agree with their stance!

Member

Perhaps radiation emitting devices (and pacemakers?) should have a mark of approval, so that those affected are well informed.

Member

That would make sense, but George has pointed out the complication of fitting a new pacemaker that is better protected to existing implanted leads, which could result in greater sensitivity to electromagnetic interference than a newly fitted pacemaker.

The cautious approach would be to avoid installing an induction hob if you have a pacemaker, but that does not help those who have bought one of these hobs and then have a pacemaker fitted.

I hope those who have pacemakers or are about to have one fitted get the best available advice.

Member

Electromagnetic radiation emitting devices are controlled by European standards to ensure that they emit below specified levels at specified frequencies. Devices that are susceptible to interference from radiation should be designed to withstand this radiation. That is why it is called EMC – Electromagnetic compatibility. I would presume this applies to pacemakers and other medical equipment. The issue may be at what distance from the emitting device the “receiver” can be before it is affected. One source suggested induction hobs have no effect if 5-10cm away; that seems much nearer than I would expect a pacemaker to be. BHF says 60cm. Any medical equipment experts out there to advise?

Member

I’ve contacted the British Heart Foundation and invited them to comment on the convo, so hopefully we’ll hear from them soon.

Member

Jane, Thank you.