September 19, 2014 — The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has confirmed that high-powered magnet toys were involved in at least one child’s death last year and about 7,700 emergency room visits.
The statistics were reported in a proposed final rule (PDF) that would ban magnet toys that could potentially be swallowed by a child. Magnet toys will only be allowed if they are too large to fit through a cylinder that is used to test choking hazards.
USA Today reports that last year, a 19 month-old girl died after eating seven tiny magnet balls that her brothers brought home from school. When her parents noticed unusual symptoms, she was taken to the hospital. Doctors said she probably had a virus and sent her home.
Tragically, the doctors were wrong. She died the next day at the same children’s hospital that sent her home. An autopsy revealed that the small magnets were attached to each other in her intestines, which caused a bowel perforation. The official cause of death was “ischemic bowel,” a condition that occurs when blood-flow to part of the intestine is cut off.
It is unknown what brand of magnet toys caused the child’s death.
The most popular product was manufactured by Buckyballs. The CPSC and the manufacturer of Buckyballs have been in a contentious war over the legality of the popular magnet toys. The CPSC wants them off the market, but some manufacturers argue that the products are desk toys intended for adults and carry adequate warning labels.
The CPSC has compromised and will allow magnet toys that are too large to be a choking hazard. The manufacturer of Buckyballs recalled the products in 2014, following a two-year battle with the CPSC. The manufacturer now sells a product that conforms to CPSC standards.
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