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Apple’s iPad 2 is a health risk for children with brain shunts: researchers

by Doug Drinkwater

June 28 2012

Researchers say that the magnets in the iPad 2, illustrated above, can cause problems for children with brain shunts
Researchers say that the magnets in the iPad 2, illustrated above, can cause problems for children with brain shunts

Researchers from the University of Michigan have today claimed that the magnets featuring in Apple’s iPad 2 could represent a health risk to young children with magnetically programmed brain shunts.

The researchers say that the iPad’s magnets can alter the valve settings of these shunts if the tablet is held in close proximity, and even claim that this can cause the shunt to malfunction, according to Med Page Today.

Detailing their findings in the “Programmable shunt valve affected by exposure to a tablet computer” report, the University of Michigan tested the effect of the iPad 2 on ten identical programmable shunt valves, all of which were exposed to the weak magnetic fields of the tablet from distances between 0cm and over 10cm.

The valves were tested 100 times at each distance, and the study tested the iPad 2 with and without the Smart Cover, which in itself carries additional magnets.

The results showed that, depending on the distance, the iPad did interfere with the brain shunt valve settings, with 58% of valve settings changing when the iPad was held up to just 1cm away, although this quickly decreased to 5% when the tablet was 1cm to 2.5cm away and to 1% when stationed 5cm from the shunt.

Without the Smart Cover, settings changed in 67% of valves when the tablet was within a distance of 1cm from the shunt.

Only the iPad 2 and the tablet’s iPad Cover were mentioned in the report, so it is not known at this time to what extent children with brain shunts could be affected by other tablets, or by the new iPad, which also features embedded magnets.

Brain shunts are typically used to control the building up of fluid on the brain, and are often used for children suffering from hydrocephalus.

The University of Michigan first decided to go ahead with this study after seeing a shunt malfunction in a 4-month old girl, just three weeks after it was fitted. It was later revealed that the mother did occasionally hold the girl when using her iPad 2.

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