The CPSC has reported an increasing number of incidents involving children swallowing high-powered magnets, where these magnets are causing serious injuries.
Reports include children from 18 months to 15 years old and although the risk scenarios differ, the danger is the same. When two or more magnets are swallowed, they can attract one another internally, resulting in serious injuries, such as small holes in the stomach and intestines, intestinal blockage, blood poisoning and even death.
CPSC received one incident report in 2009, seven in 2010 and 14 through October 2011. Of the reported 22 incidents, 11 required surgical removal of the magnets.
“The potential for serious injury and death if multiple magnets are swallowed demands that parents and medical professionals be aware of this hidden hazard and know how to treat a child in distress,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum.
High-powered magnets that are of a size that can be swallowed are prohibited in toys for children younger than age 14. The reported incidents involved magnets that are marketed as desk toys or stress relievers for adults. Often, they are sold in sets of 200 or more magnets in stationery, office supply and gift stores. It can be extremely difficult for a parent to tell if any of the tiny magnets are missing from a set.
CPSC is also aware of instances where the magnets were swallowed or inhaled intentionally by teenages. To mimic body piercings, the older children are placing two or more magnets on opposite sides of their ear lobes, tongue and nose.
CPSC are urging consumers who have purchased magnet sets for children younger than 14 years of age (or households with children under 14 years of age) to remove access to the sets by children immediately and contact the firms for a refund.
CPSC offers the following tips to avoid magnet ingestion injuries and advice on what to do if you suspect that your child has swallowed magnets:
- Keep small magnets away from young children who might swallow them.
- Look out for loose magnet pieces — and regularly inspect toys and children’s play areas for missing or dislodged magnets.
- If you suspect that magnets have been swallowed, seek medical attention immediately.
- Look for abdominal symptoms, such as abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
- Note that in x-rays multiple magnetic pieces may appear as a single object.