High-powered magnets — the kind you might have sitting on your desk right now — may pose a serious risk to the children in your life.
With an increasing number of incident reports to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the agency has issued a warning that high-powered magnets are a safety risk for children.
The type of magnets in question are the high-powered ball-bearing magnets that are marketed to adults as stress relievers or desk toys. Generally sold in sets of 200 or more magnets, adults use them to create and build shapes for display.
Toddlers may find loose pieces of magnets or magnets left within reach. Older children and teens may use the magnets to mimic body piercings, placing two or more magnets on opposite sides of their ear lobes, tongue, and nose, sometimes resulting in accidental inhalation or swallowing.
If two or more magnets are swallowed, they can attract each other internally, causing injuries like blood poisoning, intestinal blockage, holes in the stomach or intestines, and even death. When a magnet must be removed through surgery, damage to stomach or intestines must also be repaired.
In recent years, children from 18 months to 15 years old have been reported as needing medical care after swallowing the magnets, some requiring surgical removal.
“We want parents to be aware of the danger associated with these innocent looking magnets,” CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in a press release. “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.”
These magnets are already prohibited in toys for children younger than 14.
The CPSC offers a few tips on avoiding magnet ingestion and 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.
Reports about magnet incidents can be made at SaferProducts.gov.
Author’s Note: After publication of this article I was contacted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and asked to share this important video. The brief video speaks volumes — please help spread the word about this easily overlooked safety hazard. Thank you.
Image credit: istockphoto.com