High-Powered Magnets Deadly to Children

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 ó 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



Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

devon leonard
Devon Leonard5 years ago

Thank you so much for these articles on magnets. Information passed on is what we all need to live healthier and better informed lives. These on magnets are great for young mothers everywhere so they understand the danger here.

Tara B.
Tara B5 years ago

I've heard of this happening to dogs, too.

Nikhil V.
Nikhil V6 years ago

Great post

Carol P.
Carol P6 years ago

It isn't just ball-bearing magnets but any magnet that is a RARE-EARTH MAGNET.

Though magnets do occur in nature, most magnets are created by magnetizing metals. And rare-earth magnets are a relatively new phenomena, developed in the 70s and 80s as science has found ways to create new alloys with stronger magnetic properties. You'll know when you have one because they are noticeably stronger than the magnets we normally have around.

Swallowing one is generally not a problem. Though rare-earth magnets corrode easily, they generally are plated in order to avoid corrosion and will pass through the system before any outer coating is broken down, not too different from swallowing any other metal item.

The problems occur when two or more magnets are swallowed, or even if one magnet and another metal object are swallowed. If they just clung to each other with nothing in between, there wouldn't be a problem. But what happens is that they travel through the bowels at different speeds, so when they do snap together, they do so with intestinal wall in between. This is when you need the x-ray and surgery in order to avoid fatal consequences.

So if you do have children (or pets) in that phase where they put everything into their mouths, tuck the rare-earth magnets away until they get older.

Erin Sheffer
Erin Sheffer6 years ago

Wow! I had no idea!

Karen F.
karen Friedman6 years ago

Never heard or seen them.

Gina P.
Regina P6 years ago

I don't see anything misleading about the title. These are deadly and more kids swallow them than you think. It's worth a child's life to be safer about this product. The video is nice and clear too.

Chris R.
Chris R6 years ago

Thanks Ann!~

Carol B.
Carol B6 years ago

misleading title