Laptops, electromagnetic radiation, and AF

Laptops, electromagnetic radiation, and AF

I sometimes get ectopics and other disturbances after spending long periods of time typing with my fingers directly on my "laptop" and with it on my lap. Most times, my laptop sits on my desk and I use a separate keyboard, but sometimes I sit in front of the TV and type directly onto the laptop. My ECG readings using AliveCor tend to show interference after close and prolonged exposure to my laptop, even when my pulse feels steady. The accompanying image shows a typical AliveCor reading under normal circumstances (at home, top panel), and after using my laptop (lower panel, my computer was no where near the device while the reading was taken). The second reading shows too much interference to be interpretable (at least by AliveCor). I don't think this would happen every time, but I do sense that over-exposure to the electromagnetic fields of laptops could have some effect. I wonder if anyone else has experienced issues with laptops and ECG interference, and whether there have been discussions of the risks of prolonged electromagnetic field exposure and AF.

19 Replies

  • Many years ago my office was above a sub station and the em interference was so bad that normal computer screens wouldn't work We had some of the first IBM' LCD screens as a result. Under health and safety regs we asked for measurements to be done which showed up some interesting facts, like the field was actually quite low although erratic but that it was stronger outside in the street with all the cables running in one direction.

    You may have missed the thread a few weeks ago about new cars and key-less ignition. Apparently you should not buy a new car with this facility if you have a pacemaker. When I was a kid I was told not to sit too close to the TV for fear it would make me sterile.

    Avoiding emi is difficult but if you are convinced then the solution is obvious. One member blames his AF on carrying his mobile in his shirt pocket. Easy one that. Avoid electric welding if you have a pacemaker as well. One good reason I don't! lol


  • Hi Bob,

    Yes, power transformers do have some stray magnetic field around them and as you say the old crt monitors would be affected. On your other point about the TV's when we were boys, the early tv's, again with a crt, emitted X-rays from the screen. The later ones did have shielding built in to the screen to prevent this. It was fairly low energy but could be detected with a radiation monitor next to the screen. At normal viewing distance there was no problem.

    As you may have noticed from my recent posts, I am currently waiting for a CRT pacemaker to be fitted. I will need to check the question of the keyless entry/ignition since the car I bought last March, 2014, has that. The information that I downloaded from the manufacturers website says that it is ok to use an electric welder and also ok to to walk through the airport security screening units as long as you go through quickly.

    Thomps95's trace may be due to dry hands after using his laptop. I get a trace like that all the time if I try to do it on my hands. I can only get a good trace when doing it on my chest. My hand skin resistance is too high.


  • Mine too. working with metal a lot and using swarfega!

  • Your "dry hand" explanation seems very plausible (or something similar) and would be far less worrying!

  • Yes, I most evenings am sitting with my laptop on my knees, as now, and have never found it affected my AliveCor reading taken on my chest just a few minutes later. Have never managed a sensible reading on my hands, just a noisy trace like yours.

  • This website has some interesting information.

    I guess we can avoid some of the radiation but how diligent are we; or, in some cases, how informed are we?

  • Looking at the site further, I see there are products on this site but I have no idea if they are effective or a scam. Whether skepticism is warranted is anyone's guess; but further research is likely a wise thing to do.

  • Scepticism, in my view, is warranted, EngMac. Anything that offers a cure for things that we all can be anxious about - like hair loss, weight problems, impotence, painful knees, etc. can attract duff products and as you say, need further research.

  • Just wondered if wearing a Fitbit would emit anything - especially as it automatically "speaks" to the computer.

  • Hmmm good question ... I just bought one ...

  • Thanks for this reminder Thom, I try and avoid all am or pm in front of my Desktop computer and change rooms as it has affected me.

    I put it down to the screen emissions and/or 'email/typing apnea' - many people evidently incl me have a nasty habit of not breathing properly when they are typing emails etc.

    I had a Home EMF/RF exposure report done recently. The checks were on Power Frequency Magnetic, Power Frequency Electric and Radio Frequency.

    To cut a long story short my Home office (converted garage) was the worst with particularly bad the cordless phone (I'm going back to the old corded), also fluorescent lights (using incandescent when I can) , too many electric cables (moved them at least 3 feet away from my chair), wifi (going back to cable).

    If you are fit and healthy normally you can resist such stuff but with AF present for me it needs to be avoided as part of Lifestyle changes.

  • I think people vary a lot in their sensitivities, and I've come to the conclusion that I'm quite reactive to environmental conditions

  • Please don't jump down my throat...ok go on then I might deserve it.

    Could the readings be caused by slight anxiety now because you relate using the laptop with the Ectopics? I hate it when people suggested my AF was caused by anxiety so feel free.

    I am however, very interested in what you say as I am a computer engineer and have had 2 ablations in the last 18 months for PAF and resulting SVT's.

    I accept that there could be no connection and therefore will keep an open mind but nevertheless your results are still interesting.

  • Interesting idea, and I must admit I'm not sure about it myself :) But to be honest I don't think "anxiety" can lead to ECG interference on the AliveCor. It might increase heart rate, or (under extreme circumstances) even lead to atrial fibrillation. But anxiety shouldn't generate electrical interference.

    I work with magnetoencephalography in my job, so I know about EMFs and the science behind it. I'm also aware the medical party-line is that it is harmless ...

    On the other hand, in the 50s the shoe fitting fluoroscope was a common fixture in shoe stores. They emitted cancer-causing radiation to the feet, and the sales pitch was that the fluoroscope allowed the best fit. The medical community endorsed these devices and reassured everyone they were harmless. Now we're told - "well, oops, ok we were wrong on that count, but be assured, all *other* forms of radiation emissions are harmless" :) the question is, do we accept all current medical reassurances with 100% confidence?

  • I have not noticed that electric fields affect the iheartrhythm device that I use to monitor heart rate.

  • I am not finding this a very reliable effect - the last time it happened I'd spent the entire afternoon typing directly on the laptop. But I haven't noticed an effect since. Maybe, as Farmerwalt suggested, the physical heat from the computer made my fingers dry and generally poor conductors?

  • In the old days, for suction EKG leads, an electrode gel, which is salt free and hypoallergenic, was applied to the skin. In North America, one brand is called Spectra 360. It is inexpensive. You may be able to get this at a pharmacy and apply this to your fingers to reduce the resistance.

    Electricians who do manual work often have calloused fingers which have higher resistance and therefore they can touch live electrical wires and receive little or no shock (depending upon the voltage of course). One of their favorite tricks in North America, where house wiring is at 110 VAC, is to touch live wires and then ask a non-electrician, whose hands are not calloused, to do the same and then laugh when this person receives a shock. Risky practice but done nevertheless.

  • My fingers aren't calloused but as an Electrical/Electronics engineer I quite often worked on "live" equipment and up to 240V would only occasionally feel a slight tingle, as long as I was on a wooden floor. Had the odd "zap" from the 10KV supplies in the old TV sets. Perhaps that is why I now have AF.

    On another "radiation" note :- everybody goes on about the radiation from mobile phones and the masts, BUT I've never heard anybody mention TV transmitters that radiate 10's of thousands of times more rf energy. But then we can't do without our TV's can we? Mind you, with some of the junk that's on TV perhaps we should just switch off all the transmitters and see if it helps our AF!!!!


  • The wooden floor or high resistance boots (or anything that keeps you insulated from ground) insulate you if you only touch one side of the line but the electricians will hold both sides - one in each hand or one hand on a ground. This means the current can flow through the chest and heart. Fifty milliamps can kill a person so this is why the trick is very risky for people whose hands do not have a high resistance. On AC you can usually get away from the wires but don't try this on DC or you will likely not get away. Electrical shocks that travel through the heart are somewhat like what happens when the defibrillator is used; but shocks, not being controlled, can stop the heart or at the very least mess it up for a bit. Usually, it settles back to sinus or not. The "or not" is not the desired result. Giving yourself a shock is probably not a recommended option for AF no matter how desperate you become. :-)

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