High-Powered Magnet Toys a Hazard for Kids, Health Canada Warns

Health Canada is now warning Canadians of the danger associated with high-powered magnet toys likely Buckyballs and Zen Magnet Rare Earth Magnet Balls toy sets.  Last month, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) filed lawsuits seeking to have those particular toys pulled from the market, and the Commission recently proposed a rule that would ban the sale of such high-powered magnet toys unless the magnets fall below a certain strength level.

According to Health Canada, toys like Buckyballs, which consist of numerous tiny magnet beads or balls, are “a recognized health hazard to children of all ages” that should be kept away from children.  According to the notice:

“There have been many cases of children requiring emergency surgical treatment to remove swallowed magnets and/or magnetic toy pieces from their intestines.  If a child swallows more than one powerful magnet over a short period of time, the magnets can attract one another while travelling through the body. When this happens, the magnets can twist the intestines and create a blockage or they can slowly tear through the intestinal walls.  The results can be very serious and even fatal.”

The agency is warning consumers to:

  • Keep products with small powerful magnets out of the reach of children of any age.
  • Teach children of all ages that small powerful magnets, and small items containing magnets, should never be placed in their mouth.
  •  Seek immediate medical care for any child who has swallowed, or is suspected of having swallowed, one or more magnets.
  • Check around the home and other areas for small powerful magnets that may have detached from products and keep them safely out of reach of children.
  • Read and follow the age recommendations, warnings, safety messages and assembly instructions for products with small powerful magnets.
  • Store toys and games for adults safely out of the reach of children.

In the U.S., there have been 1,700 reported ingestions of magnets from magnet sets that were treated in emergency departments between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2011, according to the CPSC.  The magnet toy sets that would be covered by the CPSC’s proposed ban  are comprised of numerous identical, spherical, or cube-shaped high-powered magnets and measure approximately three to six millimeters in size, with the majority made from NdFeB (Neodymium-Iron-Boron or NIB). They are marketed to adults as brain development toys and puzzles, and are often used to make various two- and three-dimensional forms, jewelry, and toys, such as a spinning top.  Sets may include as many as 216 tiny (2mm to 5mm), high-powered magnets.

News of the proposed magnet ban follows two lawsuits the CPSC filed in recent weeks that seek to halt sales of Buckyballs and Zen Magnet Rare Earth Magnet Balls toys.  Both Zen Magnets and Maxfield & Oberton, the maker of Buckyballs, have vowed to fight the CPSC.

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