CPSC Warns High Powered Magnets May Harm Children

Increasing incident reports received by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) point to a continuing problem with <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/product_liability">high-powered magnets and their safety risks to children. The CPSC reports that children of all ages, including teens, are swallowing magnets and suffering severe consequences. As we’ve said, if magnets are swallowed, serious injuries and/or death can occur.

Risk scenarios differ by age, but the danger is the same, the CPSC noted. When two or more magnets are swallowed, they can attract internally, resulting in serious injuries. We’ve explained that ingesting multiple magnets can cause potentially fatal problems that are difficult to diagnose. Initial physical exams might not reveal a serious problem; however, swallowing more than one magnet can lead to bowel perforation, volvulus (intestinal twisting causing obstruction), ischemia (inadequate blood flow to a part of the body caused by constriction or blockage of the blood vessels), and death.

When magnets pass in the body beyond the stomach, they can attract each other through divergent intestinal walls, which is when obstruction can occur and when necrosis—death of cells or tissue—or intestinal perforation can occur. According to a prior Science Daily report, about 20 percent of all swallowing accidents require surgery.

Reports of incidents involving high-powered ball-bearing magnets are on the rise. In 2009, the CPSC received one incident report, seven in 2010, and 14 through October 2011. The 22 incidents involved children 18 months to 15 years of age; 17 involved magnet ingestion and 11 required surgery. When surgery is needed, a child’s damaged stomach or intestines often also require repair.

“We want parents to be aware of the danger associated with these innocent looking magnets,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “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.”

High-powered magnets and magnet components of a size that can be swallowed are banned in toys for children under the age of 14; however, CPSC reports involve magnets marketed as adult desk toys and stress relievers. These magnets are used to create patterns and shapes and are typically sold in sets of 200 or more in stationery, office supply and gift stores, and on the Internet. CPSC has received reports of toddlers finding loose magnet pieces within reach, noting that parents might not be able to tell if the magnets are missing from the sets. Incidents involved toddlers getting hold of loose magnets left on furniture or refrigerators or found on the floor. In teens and tweens magnets are typically unintentionally inhaled and swallowed, although some events were intentional. Older children use magnets on opposing sides of their ears, tongue, or nose, to imitate body piercings.

“We sell our magnetic desk toy product, Nanospheres®, on Amazon.com for adults only. As the Amazon product description and warning labels on the product itself state, these products are hazardous if ingested and are not appropriate for young children,” said Dan Taggert, CEO of Kringles Toys and Gifts, manufacturer of Nanospheres®. “High-powered magnets, such as Buckyballs®, are products for adult use only and should be kept away from all children,” said Craig Zucker, CEO of Maxfield and Oberton, maker of Buckyballs. The CPSC, Kringles Toys and Gifts, and Maxfield and Oberton urge consumers who bought magnet sets for children under 14 years, or in households with children under 14, to immediately remove children’s access and contact the firms for a refund.

The CPSC has issued previous safety alerts and developed a 2008 mandatory standard to prevent magnets from detaching from toys. The CPSC release is part of the Commission’s first product-wide public announcement and is being followed with a magnet awareness campaign that includes a number of initiatives with public safety partners, public service videos targeted for parents and teenagers, and social media outreach. The CPSC released tips and a video feed that airs tonight that will be available online. Full details can be accessed on the CPSC web site here.

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