The number of children swallowing powerful magnets is growing. When swallowed, these magnets can be deadly, according to a study presented by Canadian researchers on October 27. The super strong magnets found in children’s toys, jewelry and novelty items are particularly dangerous if multiple magnets are swallowed, researchers told the conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in Orlando.
"The ingestion of these dangerous toys has been increasing, and spiking over the past three years. What we're seeing is really an epidemic driven by a new technology. These new magnets are vastly more powerful, smaller in size, and seem innocuous. Parents just aren't aware of the potential danger," said study co-author Daniel Rosenfield, M.D.
Canadian study on magnet swallowing by children
Emergency room records, from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto covering a period from April 1, 2001, to Dec. 21, 2012, were analyzed by Rosenfield and his colleagues. The researchers found a significant increase in both single and multiple magnet swallowing by children between the ages of seven months to 13 years. Six children needed surgery to remove the magnets.
"Parents, teachers, physicians and the general public need to be made aware of the potential dangers, and assure that these toys are kept away from children," Rosenfield said. "We applaud governmental bodies in the U.S. and abroad for taking a strong stance in removing these products from the market."
US Consumer Product Safety Commission hearing on magnet safety
A public hearing regarding these super magnets was held by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on October 22. According to Consumer Reports, the hearing focused on the CPSC’s “proposal to prohibit the sale of neodymium magnetic ball sets containing even a single magnet that has a flux index, or magnet strength, of more than 50 and which is small enough to fit within the small-parts cylinder the CPSC uses to test for choking hazards.”
Several doctors testified at the hearing in support of the CPSC’s proposed rule. Dr. Mark Gilger explained the danger to the commission. ”When a child ingests multiple magnets … they are capable of attracting across tissue within the stomach and bowel. This attraction pinches tissue together, and can cause inflammation, blockages, and eventually tissue death, known as necrosis. This can further lead to perforation and ulceration, and can ultimately result in sepsis, a life‐threatening condition.”
Tim Szeto, of Nano Magnetics Ltd., told the CPSC by email that his company and other interested parties did not receive notice of the hearing. He requested a "fair commenting period that is respectful of the affected stakeholders."
More information on these magnets is available from the CPSC.