Unfortunately, many parents may be unaware of the risks. When multiple magnets are swallowed, they can attach to each other across an intestinal wall. This could cause severe internal organ damage, perforation of the intestine, and death. Usually, the only way to remove the magnets is with surgery, which can create even more internal damage.
Some of the most popular brands of magnet toys include Nanospheres, Buckyballs, Zen Magnets, and Magnet Balls. The toys typically consist of small, round, ball-bearing magnets that are intended to be formed into shapes and patterns.
The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has reported at least 200 cases of children who were injured after swallowing magnets. Many of these people needed to undergo surgery to remove the magnet. In one case, a 20 month-old child died after ingesting the magnet toys. Experts are also warning that some teenagers have unintentionally ingested magnet toys while using them to simulate tongue/lip piercings.
Although most magnet toys are labeled for use only by adults, the American Academy of Pediatrics is concerned that the current labels are not strong enough. Many parents may still be unaware that magnet toys could be deadly for a child.
This is not the first time experts have been concerned about toys containing magnets. There was a major recall of Magnetix magnetic building toys in 2006 and 2007. The recall was prompted by at least 27 cases of children swallowing the magnets after they detached from the building blocks. At least one child died after swallowing a detached magnet.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is making the following recommendations to parents:
- Warn teenagers not to put magnet toys in their mouths or near their face
- Regularly check toys containing magnets to see if they have become dislodged
- Keep toys containing magnets away from small children
- If you suspect that a child has swallowed a magnet (they may have vomiting and diarrhea), seek medical attention immediately by calling 911
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