Can I charge the electric car if I have a pacemaker? the risks

There are more and more electric vehicles and the power of charging points is increasing at a similar rate. Most of them are safe but some can generate electromagnetic fields and cause interference in different medical devices according to a study. These are the risks.

These are the news that we usually think: “It’s not my turn”, but it is not so. These are the reasons. In Spain there are close to 200,000 electric vehicles and, if we include hybrids, the figures exceed 650,000. And sales increased by 33% between 2021 and 2022. In terms of stations and charging points, the figures are also around 200,000.

charge the electric car

As for pacemakers and defibrillators, these are used to treat patients with heart rhythm disorders or heart failure. An estimated 1 to 1.4 million pacemakers will be implanted worldwide by 2023. Additionally, approximately 150,000 to 200,000 patients worldwide receive an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) each year.

Now, if we add the millions of people with pacemakers and the number of electric vehicles, they begin to give the accounts. According to a study by the European Society of Cardiology, “new high-power charging stations for electric cars have the potential to create strong electromagnetic fields and cause electromagnetic interference in pacemakers and defibrillators, causing them to malfunction,” he notes. study author Carsten Lennerz in a statement–. We previously investigated the risk of electromagnetic interference with cardiac devices while driving electric cars and found that the largest electromagnetic field was located along the charging cable. This is the first study to examine the risk of electromagnetic interference in patients with implantable cardiac electronic devices while using high-power chargers.”

There are currently high-power chargers that deliver up to 350 kW, very good for shortening charging time but with a possible health impact for certain people. These types of chargers use DC (direct current) which allows for greater power delivery, while older or domestic chargers use AC (alternating current). With a higher charging current, there may be a stronger magnetic field and an increased risk of electromagnetic interference that could cause a pacemaker to stop pacingor a defibrillator delivering painful shock therapy inappropriately (due to false detection of a rapid arrhythmia), according to the authors. The problem is that there are no official recommendations on the use of high-power chargers for patients with CIED, that is, there is no type of warning, neither by companies nor by official organizations.

Caution, driver friend

The study included 130 patients with pacemakers or defibrillators. The average age was 59 years and 21% were women. Four publicly available all-electric vehicles capable of high-power charging were used during the study, although none of them charged with the maximum power of 350 kW .

The participants’ cardiac devices were programmed to optimize detection of electromagnetic interference. They were then asked to plug in and charge each car with the charging cable placed directly over their heart device to maximize the likelihood of electromagnetic interference. Patients were monitored for any malfunction of their cardiac device, such as failure to deliver pacing therapy or inappropriate detection of abnormally fast heart rhythms. The cardiac devices were also checked for any changes in their programming or damage after charging. In total, 561 charges were made.

“This study was designed with the worst-case scenario in mind,” Lennerz says. Although we did not find clinically relevant electromagnetic interference or device malfunctions during the use of high-power chargers, we recommend not placing the charging cable near the cardiac device to maintain distance from charging elements.”

The measure is more important in high-power charging stations and points, above 200 kW, than in the chargers we have at home that use a smaller current, since alternating current generates a different magnetic field than direct current. . As charging power increases and the number of fast charging stations increases, a general warning may be considered as an option . Mainly so that we are informed.