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Kids’ injuries from ingested magnets increasing

The availability of smaller magnets since 2009 has led to an increase in serious injuries in kids who swallow them.

Magnets have long been a favorite toy of children. However, a study scheduled to be published in The Journal of Pediatrics suggests the introduction of stronger, smaller-sized neodymium iron-barium magnets in 2009 has led to an increase in cases of serious injury resulting from magnetic ingestion.

According to a May 16 news release, researchers led by Matt Strickland, MD, a surgeon in the division of surgery at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, reviewed 2,722 cases of foreign object ingestion seen in the emergency room at SickKids from April 1, 2002 to December 31, 2012. In order to be included in the study, the children had to be younger than 18 years old and diagnosed with suspected or confirmed magnetic ingestion.

“We chose to limit our scope to the alimentary tract because the majority of serious harm from magnets arises from perforations and fistulae of the stomach, small bowel and colon,” explained Strickland in the news release.

The investigators identified 94 children who met their criteria for inclusion in the study. Of this group, 30 children were confirmed as swallowing multiple magnets. Taking into consideration the introduction of the stronger,smaller spherical-shaped neodymium iron-barium magnets in 2009, the study divided the subjects into two time periods – those who were seen in the ER from 2002 to 2009, and those who were seen from 2010 to 2012.

Study findings showed that magnetic ingestion tripled after the smaller magnets were introduced into the marketplace. In addition, the number of injuries involving multiple magnets was nearly 10 times greater after 2009. In the 2010-to-2012 group, six children required surgery for sepsis or the potential for imminent bowel perforation. The researchers also found that the size of the magnets had decreased approximately 70 percent by 2012.

The study authors wrote that despite new labeling requirements, product recalls, toy standards and safety advisories issued over the past 10 years, there has been an “increased number of high-risk injuries featuring multiple, smaller magnets.” Noting that there are many products containing magnets in today's homes, Strickland and his team called for a renewed focus on educating parents and children about the dangers inherent in magnetic “toys,” including so-called stress relieving desk toys and fake nose and tongue piercings.

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