The Curious Case Of The Radio Amateur And The Insulin Pump

A substantial part of gaining and holding an amateur radio licence relates to the prevention of radio interference. In days past this meant interference to analogue television broadcasts, but with ever more complex devices becoming commonplace in homes it applies to much more. This has hit the news in Marion County Florida, where a radio amateur in a senior’s community has shut down his radio station after a potential link emerged between it and another resident’s insulin pump. There is a legal challenge ongoing that relates to the complex’s rules over transmitting antennas.

It’s obviously a serious occurrence for an insulin pump to be affected by anything, and it sounds as though the radio amateur concerned has done the right thing. But it’s clear that something has gone badly wrong in this case whether it’s due to the amateur radio transmissions or not, because for a manufacturer to produce a medical device so easily affected by RF fields should be of concern to everyone. We’d hope that the FCC might take an interest in this story and get to the bottom of it in an impartial manner, because whether it’s the radio amateur at fault, the insulin pump, or something else entirely, it presents a risk to anyone dependent upon such a device.

Perhaps this might also be a case for the ARRL, as we’ve reported before they have some form when it comes to radio investigations.

[Main image source: MailariX, CC-BY-SA 4.0]

93 thoughts on “The Curious Case Of The Radio Amateur And The Insulin Pump

  1. Curious I that there is no indication in the article that the pumps have now started operating correctly since the transmitter was shutdown.

    Sounds more like a case of somebody doesn’t like looking at a radio antenna and the interference with the pump is a pretty good excuse.

    My common practice when setting up a station where they may be some potential issues is to install the antennas with no feed line attached – wait for the complaints to come in and then clearly demonstrate to the inspector that any interference cannot possibly be from me

      1. Every (live) human body radiates dozens of watts continuously in the 30 THz range (as amply illustrated by any FLIR/LWIR camera), but that’s probably too much for the average complainer to grok.

    1. A Ham radio operator with a YouTube channel interviewed the Ham, David Birge, whose radio supposedly caused the interference. It contains many useful details that have been omitted in media coverage (at least partly because the details are too technical for most news sources):

      In the interview, Birge said that he had taken down his antennas and stopped transmitting ~6 months earlier. The woman reported that the interference stopped around them. However, he stated that he stealthily resumed transmitting for a month, and the woman — without knowing — stated that she did not have any interference during the six months, including during the month that he was transmitting stealthily.

      Birge also stated that, prior to taking his antennas down, he suggested doing a double-blind test where the woman would report instances of interference, and he would report when he was transmitting, and third party would compare the two, to see if the instances of interference match with Birge’s transmitting, but she was unwilling to work with him at all.

      It sounds to me like the woman either disliked Birge’s (visible) antennas, even though they were allowed by the HOA. It is difficult to get rules changed to prohibit antennas after the fact, especially since federal-issued licenses cannot easily be superseded by state or local laws. An HOA could pass a rule, but anyone who already has antennas up would likely have to be allowed and grandfathered in. However, making a medical claim of “that person’s equipment could cause a medical emergency for me” can bypass many of the other hurdles.

      The whole thing could easily be resolved by a few simple tests. I would think that many parties have a vested interest in this and would want a test. The HOA should want a test as a simple resolution to this issue. The insulin pump manufacturer should want to test to either prove its device is not susceptible to these kinds of (legally allowed) transmissions or determine the problem and fix it. The FCC and FDA should both be interested individually and together, again since legally-allowed transmissions should not be causing problems with medical devices. The ARRL, the national association supporting Ham/Amateur Radio enthusiasts, should want to show that Ham radio solves problems rather than creating them, and to show that Hams work with neighbors and others to make the world better for the hobby and for everyone else as well. The fact that this does not have representatives from all those groups standing in line to show how concerned they are, given how this story has reached a national stage, baffles me.

      1. EMI/EMC testing is one thing in a screen room, but quite another chore in the real world. It is can be very difficult to find intermodulation products between two or more transmitters which trigger a susceptibility in a device. The offending intermodulation might only occur only every few days or maybe even only once every few weeks. A small change of almost anything in the environment containing the device and transmitters might be enough to stop the trouble until the same rare fortuitous arrangement recurs at a random time in the future.

        From the way the woman’s problems with the insulin pump were described in the article I read, it was small changes in device settings which occurred. It has been my experience RF susceptibility issues usually simply cause a device to shut down or start running when it shouldn’t – who knows though. A transmission with an analog amateur transmitter might mix with a digital telemetry signal resulting in a heterodyne digital signal on the valid receive frequency of the medical device and be misinterpreted as remote control commands. There is a design issue afoot when a medical device does not use strong error checking and bidirectional validation of commands between its remote control and the device. Unfortunately there is a lot of poorly designed equipment performing critical tasks out in the wild.

        As far as Birge’s issue goes, it seems foolish to have resumed transmitting. The cost of being wrong could have cost a life.

        1. It’s a radio saturated world. We simply cannot eliminate radio interference.

          If a medical device is failing to accept radio interference as it is required to by law, it MUST be removed from service immediately. This lady MUST NOT continue to use a defective medical device that is malfunctioning, whether she thinks (without evidence) that she knows what is causing the malfunctions or not!

          She does not need the insulin pump. Shots have been available for decades that perform the same function.

          She just doesn’t like the look of antennas and is lying to try to force him to take them down.

          Her claims should be investigated seriously, and if substantiated, all these insulin pumps should be immediately recalled.

          1. As may other pump users that are also hams have commented here, our pumps are NOT defective. I believe she may have misenterpeted one of the alarms. The insulin delivery system she is using has 4 parts: sensor inserted under the skin, rechargabe transmitter, the pump, and a cell phone.

            The sensor needs to be replaced after 6 or 7 days. The transmitter has to be recharged then too. The recharge time takes about an hour. During that time the pump alarms that it lost contact with the transmitter. It will continue to alarm that it may be radio interferience and move someplace else (or something to that effect). This may be where she has gotten the idea it is an interference issue. The sensor connection feature should be turned off during recharging. I bet she didn’t. I don’t. As soon as the new sensor is inserted and transmitter is reconnected, and the cycle can start again.

            The cell phone pump interface is a modifed Bluetooth link. The cell phone cannot command the pump to deliver more insulin nor tell the pump to stop delivering insulin.

            The pump has some limited semi automatic insulin delivery control (basil delivery). Any large dosing must be by user command (bolis delivery).

            And, oh by the way Mr Meyer, taking insulin by syringe injection nearly killed me twice. It is barberic. Insulin pumps are a life saver. I have been using one for 20 years after syringe delivery for 10 years. Continuous Glucose Monitoring which she was using, gives the gold standard of care for Type 1 diabetes.

            I don’t defend her irrational actions or opinion. I am saying she may have been mistaken then wet off in the rails.

            I agree and know the world is radio active (pun intended), and it wil continue to get worse. I agree the pumps should not be susceptible to RF emissions.

            Unfortunately every contingency or instantiation cannot be tested or verified.

            Any case like this needs to be investigated by a team of people with the requisite knowledge.

          2. I have had type 1 for 40 years, and have used a pump for 12. I have trouble with Lantus, as it is a steady flow of basal, and at times I do not need that much. I have used a CGM in the past, but do not now, or in the past few years. I do not use my cell phone to do anything with my pump. I know when something is wrong, have documented it, filled an adverse action complaint with the FDA at the beginning of this year, and have been supplying them with everything they have asked for. Please stop attacking me personally.

        2. 2 pumps seemed to halt delivery of insulin, causing highs, the last pump seemed to surge insulin delivery causing extreme lows. It was terrifying. None of the 3 pumps, a 5 series and 2 670Gs were involved in the recall. Thank you for the reply, it really makes sense. All pumps worked properly when out of town, and when they stopped transmitting mid June of 2020. I have provided the FDA with all downloads from Glucofacts and Carelink

          1. That sounds scary Michelle. If I were in your position I would be wary of going anywhere strange in case there is RF that causes you to have another hypo.

            I know injecting is painful, but diabetics become very skilled at managing their own condition that way. Maybe the technology is putting too much back in the hands of others.

      2. I suppose the variable in the “double-blind” test you propose that might concern me is the reporting behavior of the ham in question. If he’s already shown that he’s willing to tempt fate by “stealthily” transmitting when he “wasn’t supposed to be”, I’d be afraid that he might spend time transmitting without reporting it. Then when the neighbor complains about interference on such a day and time, the ham can say “see? I reported all of my times, and that’s not one of them!”

        But I’m paranoid that way… :-)

        Perhaps if there was something that could be posted right next to the ham’s antenna to automatically detect/log when transmissions were happening, that’d eliminate the undesirable behavior.

        1. You know, amateur radio operators are required to maintain logs of all their contacts. And also others maintain their logs even when the one transmitting doesn’t. There are even automated station networks doing this in order to monitor ionosphere propagation conditions.

          It is also required to identify your station on air with a callsign. So it would be fairly simple to verify whether or not he was “transmitting without reporting”. HAMs are not going to circumvent or bend the rules where they could get into a lot of trouble and lose their licenses.

          A neighbor with a crappy light dimmer or a trucker with 1kW CB amplifier (completely illegal, of course) in their vehicle are much more likely to cause significant interference than a HAM with their station.

          This is most likely the usual – someone sees an antenna go up and suddenly people are “dying, getting sick, radios are not working” and similar mysterious and unexplained effects – both because people ascribe it even things it can’t do (ever heard some of the 5G BS?) and because they want to get rid of the eye sore (HF antennas are pretty big).

          1. Time to update your information. We don’t need to keep any logs and ham isn’t an acronym and isn’t capitalized, unless your caps lock key is broken.

          2. It is, however, recommended that you keep a log at the first sign of potential EMC issues and, if the US rules are the same as the UK, the regulator can require individuals to keep logs.

      3. It is telling that the insulin user alleging interference doesn’t want to participate or cooperate in any conclusive testing. She is conniving enough to use a “medical issue” as a trump card…. perhaps for other reasons we don’t know about.

        Being a former gov’t Radio Inspector in Canada, I’ve seen my share of these sorts of things. And neighbours of 2kW Ham Radio operators and the issues that can create with “audio rectification” to phones, intercom systems (remember those?), stereo’s, TV audio and so on. The issues can be real especially with HF when the radio energy in a neighbouring home can be measured in Volts/meter! For higher frequencies, in the office we often spoke of a case in Toronto shortly after the CN Tower was built (1976… 554m tall and used for TV and FM Radio broadcasting) with a nearby high rise office tower being built… when the crane got high enough and into enough energy, it’s newfangled electronic controls started to malfunction. Of course, this is an issue to resolve for the device that is susceptible, not the transmitters.

        If you want to look at worst case, real world EMI testing, search up anything that is used on an aircraft carrier. The powerful search radar is quite nasty on unprotected equipment.

        Worst case for EMI to which medical equipment would be typically exposed would be an older GSM cell phone placed onto it, or 5W VHF/UHF handie-talkie (ham or security guard) within 1m.

        However, there is a process and simple on-off testing that can be done to relate the issue without doubt. Or find other easy indicators that can be corelated to the issue (see above). Too often, people are convinced of a cause without merit in their non-technical and subjective mind. An easy example is a new cell tower that appeared and all of a sudden, things are malfunctioning at the home… but the cell tower was not put into service yet! Or complaints about this or that, and it turns out to be a “touch lamp” in the persons own home.

        She has an axe to grind against the guy. Or she is extremely subjective and unreachable with logic.

    2. This issue has been going on for about two years. The ARRL is involved in the issue and the FDA should be looking into the pump. However, the pump she says that she says she uses was recalled for this kind of issue. Also the woman is not cooperating I’m trying to resolve the problem. She says that she wants no ham to operate within 300 feet of her house and that she went to the HOA and the state. The HOA actually changed its rules to allow an antenna to transmit as well as receive. The HOA or the state of Florida has no authority here. This problem won’t get solved unless everyone cooperates. This story is blown way out of proportion and the TV station is just creating sensational headlines for the newscast!

    3. I did just that when I put up a 9el Yagi on the house I was renting an apartment in (yes my landlord gave me the permit to put up the antenna)
      I played with the rotor and turned the antenna around multiple times a day.
      After getting complaints that I interfered with peoples TV, Radio and in one case the lights would flicker, the landlord visited me and concluded that there was nothing in my apartment transmitting anything, and the Coax was still coiled up without a connector.
      Then I started using the antenna the next day when he had told everyone it was just their imagination and that I didn’t even have a radio in my appartment.
      Never had a complaint after that.
      Similarly, a friend “Interfered” with all his neighbours when he put up a longwire for DX LISTENING only (since he wasn’t licenced) when the neighbours was told it was only used for listening, the interference dissapeared.
      Shortly after he got his licence and started transmitting, and noone had any problems.

  2. EU legislation regarding EMC requires a device to be tested for emission (EN55032) and immunity (EN61000), both radiated and conducted. As far as I know, in the US there’s FCC Title 47, which only deals with emission. So there’s no requirement about how immune your device needs to be against external disturbances.

    1. Medical devices, in EU, are tested up against 60601-1-2 and performance criteria are basic safety and essential performance (defined by the manufacturer). These criteria are often very loose and can be “avoided” all together by declaring that the user is aware of any odd situation with the device.
      It’s a horrible loophole in the standard.

      1. There *are* immunity requirements for medical equipment in North America. That said, stuff that does not go inside the body typically have no requirements for immunity testing under 150kHz. And about two years ago, an FDA director-level person sent a letter to to the FCC suggesting adoption of C95.l-2005 and the ICNIRP Guide.

        Immunity is covered by several CSA, AAMI, NoM generic standards for North America

    2. I don’t know about FDA but I am sure it is like FAA. There is requirements for immunity in US for safety critical devices like aircraft. DO-160 environmental is a means for compliance.

    3. Not sure what this device falls under but generally unlicensed RF electronics fall under Part 15, which requires manufacturers to state: “Operation is subject to the following two conditions: (1) this device may not cause harmful interference, and (2) this device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation.”

    4. That’s disturbing. I’m used to many devices have their MCUs shielded. It works both ways, and there is a reason every FCC approved ESP has a metal can shielding it.

  3. IF the Ham’s gear is operating in a legal manner and buggering up a medical device that is one heck of a screwup by the device’s designers, or the budget cutting done afterwards… Or it could be nothing to do with the HAM at all – like that case of the old TV causing some pretty serious issues every time it was turned on, reported on here.

    Though either way it is still pretty bad for a medical device – if your smart watch/phone/wifi-network/remote control toy etc can’t take the interference unaffected big deal, but a medical device really aught to be able to take just about anything its remotely plausible it could be exposed to and still function perfectly safely, or at the very least fail ‘safe’…

    And it seems rather likely that will be the case – I find it hard to believe a long standing HAM could produce any meaningful unintentional outputs, or output in the wrong frequencies etc unintentionally and not realise themselves quickly, a new to the hobby might, as they may not have all the equipment and experience needed to notice or trace where it is coming from, but as new to the hobby are probably sticking with off the shelf, or well proven designs to start with issues seems rather unlikely…

    1. > if your smart watch/phone/wifi-network/remote control toy etc can’t take the interference unaffected big deal, but a medical device really aught to be able to take just about anything

      Except that these days it’s likely that the pump connects to the phone via NFC or Bluetooth, and then uses wifi/4G to connect to the internet. So it might be the phone as much as the pump.

      1. I’m with Wade here, if that is the issue, and it doesn’t have any concept of caching, backup default ‘manual mode’ settings and receipt notifications to deal with a connection drop out then its useless – what happens when the storm takes out your local mast, or you live in Texas at the next big freeze happens so you are living in the stone age near enough (though I expect that issue with be fixed now its bitten them so hard the point stands)..

        1. Totally agree with you both, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened. I but means we could just be looking at a cheap mobile not working, rather than a medical device failing.

          And we don’t know that it didn’t just drop back to automatic or something.

      2. I find it very questionable as a pump user I go up to transmissions sites, I can not use test gear there from all the RF, yet I’ve never an issue with my pump or now pump CGM combo.

        Other are reporting she declined to do any double blind tests or notice when the ram resumed transmissions. If there is any issue it’s with the device. I have doubts that the issue is in anything but her head.

    2. The operator involved has been licensed for 40 + years. Photos of his station show what looks to be an FTDX-3000. The lady who is protesting needs some guidance in that it could be her very own WiFi or something else causing the issue. She is trying to state that it is ham radio that is threatening her life. Transmissions are random. She seems to have a log created showing dosage at certain times. In addition, some of the devices, and one she displayed, have known issues and recall for sporadic operation. As far as radio being the culprit, with some education and working with her neighbor, and some reasonable testing, the true source of the issue can be determined. That operator is likely her best ally in this. But she seems to be a bit of a Karen on camera.

        1. I will say from experience I had a feedline that was given to me that worked on my 2 meter station for a while very well. One day I was transmitting and my wife came out an said what are you doing, everytime I would talk on radio . Wifi would shut down and other things go wonky. Upon investigation my SWR was out the roof and further sluething found on the feedline the ground was not soldered to the pl-259. Once soldered everything was fine. Asking the guy who gave me the feedline said he knew which SK ham it was as he did not believe in soldering the ground. Thought compression was sufficient.

          The amatuer was not a current ARRL member but the Arrl is still investigationg.

  4. So, there is a medical device that malfunctions, even in a dangerous manner, instead of failing gracefully and alerting the user of the failure. No obvious cause can be found, the device was swapped so it’s unlikely to be a single faulty unit. There is a HAM radio operator nearby, and because a “consultant” couldn’t rule that out as a possible cause, this man has lost his hobby?

    I’d think it shouldn’t be all that difficult to determine if it is plausible; first find out exactly when the device malfunctioned, and if the HAM operator was transmitting every single time, and as an experiment, the bring the device much closer to the antenna (while disconnected from the patient, as not to endanger them), and see if the malfunction can be reproduced at a significantly higher field strength.

    Maybe the HAM radio has nothing to do with it, or maybe only very specific frequencies interfere with the operation of the device, and the HAM operator could voluntarily avoid using those frequencies.

    Whatever the outcome, it seems very likely the manufacturer of the insulin pump is at fault, because it should have been immune to such signals at a reasonable distance from the antenna (anything more than a few meters), or it could be failing in a way completely unrelated to the radio operator.

    This is all assuming the HAM radio operator is transmitting within the legal limits.

    1. Having dealt with NIMBY neighbors who hated my antennas for the 42 years I have been an extra class ham, I can tell you she just wants power to get rid of his UGLY ANTENNAS! This has nothing to do with interference. I had a neighbor storm my front door many years ago and accused me of destroying his TV. I calmly gave him a tour of my yard, showing him where the coax from the roof mounted HF beam lay in my back yard coiled with no hole into the building or a connector on coax. Then I took him into my shack showing him my only radio laying in pieces on my bench. Then we got down to discussing how I could help as I was getting the interference also. We did a walk through the neighborhood. I was pretty sure it was an illegal CBer. We found him talking on a radio into an illegal 500 watt linear amplifier into a mobile antenna clipped to the gutter. The antenna was glowing and folding over as we approached. A single call to our local FCC office got it handled. The field engineer had spoken at our local ham club and gave us his phone number which I used. He seized all the CBers equipment and left a NAL (TICKET in FCC) for several hundred dollars. They moved within a month and the interference never came back and the neighbor and I became fast friends. People jump to conclusions about us all the time. I believe this woman is using this to get rid of what she does not want in her sight! Sucks to be her after his lawyer gets done with her after this blow! N8SA

      1. Isn’t this often the case?

        We put our antennas up high to get them away from us and our neighbours to reduce interference (and QRM), select an appropriate band for the conditions and use only sufficient power to make the QSO (we all do that don’t we?).

        Yet it’s the illegal CB er with their burner into an insufficient, badly installed, often concealed antenna who causes the interference.

        Wet it is the Radio Amateur who gets the ‘blame’ from a neighbour who, by then, is often too angry to accept our help in resolving the issue.

  5. There are very little details of what happened. There is for example no correlation mentioned between the times the man was busy with his radio hobby and the woman who claims that her two different insulin pumps are affected.

    The hackaday article reads as if the man volunteered to stop his hobby, while the WTF article reads as if he was forced to do so.

    Radio amateurs get accused of almost anything by people with a tin hat syndrome. That said, the situation seems serious enough for a more thorough investigation, and I’m curious for a follow-up.

    I find that WTF site very annoying with the constantly moving banners, and the fat printed lines in between. I did (try to) concentrate and read the article though. I managed to read the article after grabbing my browser window with [Alt + LMB] and moving the top off screen.

    I have some difficulty in comprehending the EU EMC rules. They’re quite strict on emissions, with exceptions of gadgets that emit purposefully, such as radio transmitters. So what about induction cookers? My electronic thermometer goes haywire when I try to measure water temperature in a pot on my induction cooker.

    1. The EU EMC rules are also very strict on immunity, with a massive gap between the maximum emissions of any device, and the minimum immunity of any other device. There are different rules for immunity of consumer products, automotive, medical devices, etc. I don’t know all the numbers, the required immunity for automotive is over 10 times the field strength required of consumer products.

      The induction cooker is a fairly simple case; those emit a strong magnetic field at somewhere between 50-100kHz, which drops off quickly as the distance increases. If you put the electronic thermometer in the pot, it’s also well inside the range of the induction coil, so where will be current induced in any conductive loops, and possibly the sensor itself will be heated directly by this field, especially if the cap is ferromagnetic.

    2. I use the same brand of insulin pump and never noticed any problems when operating my HF ham radio station. The user manuals have specifications for RF immunity which look very good I think that the FCC, Medtronics, and the ARRL should get to the bottom of this and fix the issue. If nothing is done them most HOAs will ban Amateur Radio operation. I lived in a condo that did ban the operation of any shortwave receiver or transmitter.

      1. And how would the HOA know you have a shortwave recveiver if you have no permanent antenna installation? I have a Grundig G3 by the bed and it looks like a regular AM/FM radio.

  6. If a ham radio station causes the insulin pump to malfunction, wouldn’t other things do the same? What if this person with the insulin pump were to have lived not far from a large radio station? Would the judge have shut down that radio station? What if we have another large solar flare?

    It’s easy to tell a hobbyist to shut down, but there are other RF sources. I suggest putting the insulin user in a faraday cage because if a ham radio station does this to them, it is quite likely that other things will do this as well.

    1. About fifty years ago, there were warnings about radio and pacemakers. There were initial concerns for hams. But like so much, I don’t remember if it was a potential problem, or actually happened. I think something was done to remedy the situation, better pacemakers or a study that showed no problem.

      Since radio strength decays rapidly with distance, a lot of things are probably safe. AM antennas are so big they need to be out of town. The FM and TV tower we have here at least concentrates it. But ham radio is right there next to you, and can be higher power than most two-way radios. So the scenario is slightly different.

  7. There are antenna towers in my old neighborhood that constantly broadcasted over the phone lines and rendered our landline useless and the FCC wouldn’t do anything.

    There is also this phenomenon of energy coming out of the earth and destroying electronics and it has been talked about on other forums.

    I’m also confused because according to the old rules, electronics were supposed to accept interference but no one was allowed to cause it.

    There has to be more to this story because the ham user is banned. Why can’t he have his rights away from home?

    And how would the insulin pump user be able to put two and two together that it is the ham user’s fault? It sounds fishy to me. Why is the interference not something else? Cell phones emit radiation. Microwaves emit radiation. How do you know it is the ham user?

    When I cook in the microwave, the home wifi signals go out for a little bit during operation.

    1. Its easy to blame the Ham, in the same way its easy to vilify those that fly RC – its a really easy hobby to spot, with pretty few practitioners, and easy to find media outlets screaming how dangerous such things are, usually with no justification but a catchy headline sells newspapers, gets clicks…

    2. Simple; there is a HAM operator nearby, with a big, scary antenna emitting scary radiation! It’s like 5G, only worse!

      As far as I can tell from the article, the only reason the HAM operator is blamed, is because he happened to live nearby, and that was probably very convenient for the “consultant”. They didn’t every attempt to test the hypothesis, or check for correlation between malfunctions and actual transmissions.

    3. You sir are starting to see the real issue, and the rule you refer to as old rules apply and are in effect its called a Part 15 device or consumer electronic device, most electronic stuff sold in the united states is covered under part 15 including telephones and get this insulin pumps, you are 100% dead on right the rule is the part 15 device has to deal with the external RF that might even render a part 15 device unuseable and part 15 devices cant cause any interferance to other services or part 15 devices. Other services?? Yes such as HaM equipment which are licenced and regulated under Part 97 which means as long as the RF they emmit is within the limits and range they are O.K.ed to operate at they have the right to do so.
      In other words if the insulin pump were to cause interferance to the HAM radio signal the insulin pump could be banned as part 97 devices have the rights to operate on the radio frequency in question and the Part 15 device would be operating with non-compliant RF emmisions on a frequency it is not allowed or expected to transmit on by deffect or design.
      When a local FM station went to 100KW operations years ago there were all sorts of reports and many actually verified cases of devices and some verified were weird things to hear the station on, like bathroom vent fans, someones cordless vacuum, a toaster … that was not even plugged in! the station was nice and worked with folks to help eliminate issuers and be a good neibor but they never even thought about or offered to reduce station power! most of the verified problems were within a few blocks of the tower for the station and were resolved with trap type filters on the power lines or input lines. Some were due to homes with old 2 wire non grounded power or very old appliances. all but 1 or 2 complaints were resolved in a few weeks, a couple were solved by the station even getting some folks a new refrigerator or room fan, 1 guy was estatic when the station provided him a brand new 12 dollar cordless phone which resolved the issue. And the 1 or 2 that could not be made happy? they were told basicly after good faith attempts to be helped, KICK BRICKS and good luck hope you like our station!! Remember the station admitted no wrong and were just trying to help people by providing help to those with affected equipment they were not legally required to do so, and could have told all complaintants to KICK BRICKS!

  8. In over 35 years of industrial controls I have seen resonance do some crazy shit – live an AGA certified actuated gas control valve made by one of the biggest companies in the plant, drive closed when the PTT button was pressed on a Motorola site radio, 7 metres away if standing in the right spot. Some valves did it, some didn’t, depended how the internal wires were cabled together.

    Hard to predict and test for all cases and you can be unlucky is the takeaways I got from that one.

  9. The actual Issue is the Antennas, this community truly dislikes anything that “Looks” out of place. So Radio operators have to use specialty antennas that “Look” like flag polls and the like to pacify the HOAs. People Still complained…Every year or so it is something else.

    1. Actually, the community changed the wording on the rules so that it made it easier to put up an antenna, not harder. This is when the Karen went berserk. From many sites I read of hams that do have insulin pumps that was not affected at all. ARRL is looking into this, their head man of RFI.

  10. I am looking forward to learning what the facts are. Until authoritative facts are confirmed – this is an “Argumentum Ad Ignorantium” conversation. Many of the potential fallacies have already been identified. I wonder if the Amateur Radio Operator could formally request an FCC field investigation. It would be nice to have “just the facts Mam”. 73 all

  11. How many ham operators have insulin pumps themselves? You’d think this would be well known already, if it were a real problem.

    I’m curious to hear the manufacturer weigh in.

    1. I’m a ham with an insulin pump and have had zero issues like this. Also reading comments on this story on a few ham radio groups there are others with pumps who report no issue. I haven’t heard one instance of it causing interface.

    2. Good point, considering there seem to be quite a few 60+ HAM operators, and diabetes is more prevalent among people of that age group, there statistically have to be a fair number of diabetic HAM operators, and some of those would, by chance, be using the same insulin pump.

      I’m not sure it would be “well known” though, maybe some HAMs have actually found this problem, but it simply hasn’t been widely published. Perhaps some radio club (such as the ARRL in the US) may have some information. Has this topic popped up on any forum of HAM radio clubs? That may be the most likely way to find evidence of operators using this pump without any issues.

  12. Who in the world thought they had authority to shut the ham operator down? Only the FCC has that authority, and I doubt they would move against him when there hasn’t been a shred of evidence that ANYTHING would affect an insulin pump, much less a ham operator.
    That’s the face value summary as I see it. I’m taking bets that there’s more to this than is being told.
    BTW, how long has she been using that pump?

    1. Thanks, what this shows me is yet again, if you’re a ham, don’t mess with an HOA. I wish there were some legal means to throw all this back in their faces, but that takes time and energy that I don’t have. They don’t deserve your money. I prefer to own my own home without having to submit to some idiot with a clipboard.

  13. Shutting down a single source of RF emissions is like taking a hammer to a warning light on your car dashboard.

    This poor woman has an insulin pump that is not fit for purpose. It is not delivering the correct dose of insulin.

    There are so many sources of RF energy around us that a safety-critical device must function correctly regardless of any external fields. Removing just one source may make it work in one location, but there are mobile sources PMR and emergency services.

    The woman may leave the retirement home for many reasons, what happens if she gets too close to another RF source?

    The there are other users of the same device. What happens if they go near a broadcast radio transmitter? What about a VOA transmitter on HF?

    EM immunity is a vital characteristic of any medical device!

  14. I have a Medtronic pump similar to the one shown in the video. I have had 5 minimed pumps over the last 20 years, and I am also HAM and participtated in several Field Day events. I also live 2 1/2 miles from two 50 kW TV transmitters.

    As an electrical engineer, i have designed and tested equipment to meet the more stringent EMC requirements of MIL-STD-461D.

    I probably have the best prespective on this problem.

    I have NEVER had a problem like the one she described with interference.

    My question is how often did it happen? The TV reporter was a neophyte and couldn’t ask the right questions. As a pump user I have made mistakes calling up insulin doses, once or twice a year. How long has Ms Smith been a new user? Managing T1D is not easy. She could be making a mistake repeatedly misjudging the carbs she consumes. This is nearly a guestimate each and every meal we havr to take insulin for.

    I agree with others. If the HAM operator can’t operate on a certen HF band I’m sure he would comply. I can’t imagine VHF or UHF being a problem. Remember 6m and TV?

    As others have suggested, more investigation is required.

  15. This is a pretty easy situation, or at least it would be for me..

    Insulin pumps are FCC Part 15 devices and have a label on them and on the packaging that reads: “This device complies with part 15 of the FCC Rules. Operation is subject to the following two conditions: (1) This device may not cause harmful interference, and (2) this device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation.”

    An amateur radio station is a licensed operation bound by Part 97, not Part 15. Legally she’s shit out of luck and I would tell her (and the HOA) to go pound sand.

    1. Exactly, And the idiots that think they canj ride over FCC rules and drag the Hobby thru the mud should be sued and sued in FEDERAL COURT for violating the Radio operators civil rights, slander and potential harm to the respectable hobby of Amature Radio! Perhaps the ARRL should sue as well, some one needs to find any credentials of the supposed “expert” she hired and remove any said credentials that he actually has. Also the t.v. station that presented the story should be fined for the lopsided sensationalized story and lack of credible facts and absolutely no real facts contained false news if ever a prime example! Must have been a FOX NEWS station!!

    1. That is clear from Tom’s interview with Dave. She wants to make it so uncomfortable he moves. I bet she has an ulterior motive… like a friend or relative wants their house.

  16. Any transmitter can put out a bad signal, but even in the days before pocket spectrum analyzers, there were ways to track down such signals. (Though now there’s a lot more electronic equipment around.)

    But most problems are because the transmitter output is strong. So that audio amplifier inout stage acts as a detector. That cheap tv set overloads, especially when the transmitter is adjacent to a weaker tv signal (50MHz and someone wants to watch channel 2).

    You can be accommodating, “I’ll stay off the air during prime time” , but unless someone’s over the legal limit, it’s the equioment at the receiving end that is the problem.

    But every so often it gets really bad. There was a case in the early sixties, I think a teenager, whohad all kinds of problems from a neighbor, I think that one ended when he ended up with a license that kept him off 6M. Later in the sixties, a ham got sued for $1M, I forget the outcome. About 1986, a Canadian ham was sued by a neighbor, the ham died before it was resolved.

    These are cases where the transmitters have been found to be clean, the neighbor going to court because they can’t pull something through the FCC or other governing body.

  17. The Ham quit operating based on an allegation and not necessarily due to a proven problem.
    I built an FM station where a competitor told everyone because of the “blanketing interference rule” that if I caused interference to TV sets near the tower, I would have to buy them new TV sets. Therefore there was a flurry of hundreds of very grumpy and insistant people who were very rudely and impatiently demanding their new TV sets.
    I hired a technician who ran the local Radio Shack (remember those?) to go to the viewers’ houses and work with them with the “OK we have interference, let’s turn off the transmitter and see if it goes away and turn it back on and see if it comes back”.
    The tech and the viewer watched the TV and talked to me on the phone.
    So I turned the transmitter off and asked if the interference went away. Turned it back on to see if the interference came back.
    I asked: “Did the interference go away?, Did it tjust come back?”
    4 times…
    *But* I turned the transmitter off only once of the 4 tests.
    Out of hundreds of complaints there was only 1 actual case of interference which I paid the tech to fix. It was a defective coax splitter.

    Hospitals intentionally physically co-locate medical devices, monitors, pumps, EKGs etc., to medical telemetry transmitters (somertimes with velcro) and medical equipment manufacturers intentionally design the equipment to be resistant to RF susceptability.
    (47 CFR Section 95 subpart H, sections 95.2301-2499)

    It seems all you need to do these days is to accuse someone of something or post it somewhere on social media and it makes it a fact. I sometimes wonder if people know the difference anymore.

    I would ask:
    What are the credentials of the consultant? Is a P.E.?, is a medical specialaist?, Is an RF engineer?, Is a baloney artist?
    What signal strengths were measured at the location of the pump in mV/m? (were any even meaured?)
    Was the pump manufacturer contacted to determine the susceptibility of their equipment to RF fields? (yes, they do test for this)
    What other signal strengths from high power TV, FM, AM, 2 way radio etc were measured at the pump location?
    I’m always on the side of ‘safety of life’ but this appears to be based only on what may be an unproven assertion.
    More information and technology required.

    Hams with outdoor antennas are sometimes sitting ducks targeted with fear, uncertainty and doubts instead of facts.
    OTOH, if the Ham was keying up on 80 meters on CW with a longwire antenna run along the top of the neighbor’s fence…..
    Seems it would be simple enough to have the Ham key up and modulate the transmitter and see if there is any impact on the pump. Was this done?
    If there is a “Ham radio exclusion zone” of 300 feet this would have to apply to all radiators: WiFi, Cellular sites, etc.
    By the way, there is a federal regulatory jurisdiction pre-emption which prohibits a local government, residential association landlord, apartment or HOA from banning Ham radio (or any other) transmissions, so good luck on that one.
    More information needed. If I was the Ham I’d fight it.

  18. I’d suggest that regardless of the emissions (which clearly need investigation to make sure that’s all “clean” and above board), a device implanted in the body for life-critical purposes must not malfunction in the presence of RF.

    If the device could malfunction, it should be surrounded by a Faraday cage to ensure it never hears harmful RF. That’s on the designers of the medical device. Some people live near powerful transmitters that they do not control: this is a fact of life we all need to accept, including medical device manufacturers.

  19. I am a General Radio Operator and am on an insulin pump, I have never had any issues. Not saying I can’t, but it has never been an issue with my radios or any friends. I think this needs to be looked at very carefully by all parties involved.

  20. Something I found strange is the insulin pump seems to be the only device in the entire area to be effected by the HAM radio transmissions, the insulin pump should be designed to not be affected by external random RF energy better than say consumer goods like televisions, fm radios, garage door openers and about anything else found in a home. Point being wouldnt one expect to have the Ham signal if it were operating outsibe of its legal limits or even if conditions were such that it was operating within limits and causing a medical device to malfunction others near by would also be experincing problems with the normal PART 15 devices they own?? The lady comes off in the interviews I have veiwed as a crackpot looking for some weird satisfaction in screwing with the HAM operator. If she thinks He has to shut his station down she is mistaken the Amature operator is running a LEGAL LICENCED STATION. Her device is a medical device but still in the Radio world a consumer electronics appliance NOT ESSENTIAL TO the life of the Lady useing it there are other theraputic medical protacols that can control and treat her condition. The insulin pump is a luxury appliance, a conveinece and rules concerning the interaction of LEGAL LICENCED RADIOS and consumer devices is clear and well established the consumer is stuck with a device that MUST ACCEPT unintended and incorrect operation (read the back of any electronic consumer device) and as long as the RADIO with the LEGAL RIGHTS to OPERATE is operating inside the legal limits for said licences, the complaintant must make the adaptions to eliminate or deal with the radio transmissions the operator has no obligation to make nice and shut his station, nor can any HOA or local government or state court force him to shut down, all matters concerning his operation on the air are THE SOLE DOMAIN OF the F.C.C. ONLY! End of argument she can change treatments, replace her defective equipment , move, see a shrink what ever but it is HER PROBLEM AND HERS ALONE ! END OF ARGUMENT RIGHT IS RIGHT!

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