/ 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

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.

Member

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.

Member

Wavechange/malcolm as some seem not to believe my posts on the dangers of electromagnetic induction , radiated field eddy currents , I hope you both have read of the Indian government website on the subject ( one of may I can post ) that gives an detailed introduction to the subject on a purely technical level and the possible interference with body mass on individuals as well as comments on pacemakers . You Wavechange , being a Professor and malcolm being a Professional Engineer , will understand exactly where I am coming from its a PDF : http://www.keralaenergy.gov.in/emc_reports/induction%20Cooker_a%20brief%20investigation.pdf coloured photo is included . You will notice it is theoretically an AC transformer converted to DC then re-converted to a supersonic level of AC frequency ( above 20Khz ) so there care big losses in energy transference producing the eddy current radiation . I would also like to state I have 100,s -yes 100,s of addresses of the factories where they are advertised as -quote – cheap to buy ( for exporters ) . Guess where- thats right – the Land of Built to a Price , webpage after webpage . Do you honesty think they are all going to be made to a very high standard ?? if so then I despair of the engineering integrity of the people of this country. I know for a fact the quality of products from “there ” is enormous because I trialed out soldering stations ALL looking alike from the outside BUT most dangerous from the inside depending on the price paid. I have plenty of data if anybody challenges me. Human life first – NOT profit.

Member

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.

Member

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.

Member

“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.

Member

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. 🙁

Member

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.