ARRL has responded to an Orlando, Florida, news story on August 23, 2021 by WFTV Channel 9 alleging a radio amateur was told to remove his antenna by the management of his subdivision following a complaint made by a neighbor.
“The news story appears to stem from a 2-year-old complaint from a neighbor who believed her insulin pump had malfunctioned due to the radio amateur’s operations ‘a few doors down,’” said ARRL Laboratory Manager Ed Hare, W1RFI. “The story is lacking any details or timeline, so I contacted the radio amateur involved for information, and volunteered ARRL’s assistance.”
Hare explained that medical devices such as insulin pumps are regulated by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) purposes and are expected to be capable of operating in all the RF environments likely to be encountered by consumers. FDA published guidance for its staff and industry defines EMC with respect to electrically powered medical devices “as the ability of a device to function safely and effectively in its intended electromagnetic environment, including immunity to electromagnetic disturbance (interference).” FDA review of EMC information submitted with a device for approval “is based on the risk associated with EMC malfunction or degradation of the device under review, as well as the use of appropriate FDA-recognized standards or appropriate consensus standards.”
Hare noted there is an FDA recall for the model number of the insulin pump in question, in approximately the same time frame. “But with so few details, there is no way of knowing whether that recall applies to the serial number used or whether the exact unit has the mechanical defect indicated in the recall notice that could cause the malfunction,” explained Hare.
It also became apparent that there is no actual evidence connecting the amateur’s transmissions to operation of the insulin pump. Hare was told that the amateur agreed to run tests to establish whether there was a cause and effect, but the neighbor declined.
Hare commented, “While there are no requirements for a radio amateur to stop transmitting due to alleged interference to a non-radio device, the preferred path with any complaint is for neighbors to work together.”