High-Powered Magnets Pose Safety Hazard for Children

High-powered magnets are rapidly becoming a safety hazard for children as more reports of injury are released both in the U.S. and Canada.

The magnets prompting emergency surgeries are not the lightweight magnet letters children often play with or attach to the refrigerator. Neodymium magenets, often used in desktop toys such as Buckyballs, are 10-20 times as strong as everyday magnets. These pose a significant risk to children as they can attract and attach to one another across body cavities and organs. According to physicians at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, the magnets have the ability and strength to tear a hole in the intestine or bowel of a child if ingested.

In the past ten years, at least 480 reports of children ingesting high-powered magnets have been reported in the United States, 204 of those in the last year. In Canada, 178 children have been taken to the emergency room for ingesting magnets between 1993 and 2007.

Most of the children mentioned in these reports are under the age of six, although many teenagers have swallowed magnets designed to look like lip, tongue, and nose piercings.

In response to this hazard, the Consumer Product Safety Commission filed a complaint against Buckyballs’ manufactuer, Maxfield and Oberton. The magnets are sold as sets of 50-100 balls that can be used to create various shapes and are advertised as adult desktop toys.

“But desks are right at a small toddler’s reach and if they grab one or two, you might not notice they’re missing. If they ingest more than one, that’s when issues come up,” said pediatric resident Dr. Daniel Rosenfield of the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children.

The doctors warn that the symptoms of ingestion, including abdominal pain, vomiting, and fever, are very common of other childhood illnesses and thus would be easy to misdiagnose. Such delays could be disastrous for the child’s health.

As an example, the doctors at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children pointed to a case of a child who was undergoing an MRI for an unrelated health concern. The child had apparently swallowed a magnet at some point and it perforated his bowel during the MRI.

Surgery has been required in a number of cases, including one for a child whose X-ray showed that the magnets he had ingested had moved through several loops of intestine before coming together and causing intense abdominal pain.

“We knew at that point they weren’t going to be going anywhere…that portion of the gut dies as the magnets are pulled together,” Dr. Rosenfield said, “Once the tissue dies and gets infected, that’s what causes the symptoms. It can absolutely require emergency surgery.”

As of the date of this writing, only one death has been reported: a 20-month old infant from Seattle, Washington. The doctors believe, however, that more will follow if action is not taken to prevent these magnets from being accessed be children.

“Parents need to know that buying these desktop toys is a really bad idea. If you have them, keep them out of reach of kids, or get rid of them altogether.”

When everyday products and toys put your child in danger, it is imperative that you know your rights. If your child has been injured as a result of a defective or dangerous toy, you DO have rights and options. Contact experienced child injury attorney,  Jeffrey Killino, today.