News Release

Popular Magnets Still Pose Danger if Swallowed

For Immediate Release

Washington, D.C - Statement of Nasima Hossain Public Health Advocate, on the continued danger of magnets to children.

An article on January 27 2012 in the Washington Post highlights the growing popularity of small, ball-bearing magnets being used by middle school students as pretend mouth piercings, posing a serious health hazard.  These small ball magnets are 5mm in size and extremely strong. Recently a fifth grader pretending to have a tongue piercing accidentally swallowed 2 of them, which resulted in five days at Inova Fairfax Hospital, at least 10 X-rays, three CT scans and an endoscopy. Finally, on Jan. 20, a surgeon used a metal instrument to manipulate the magnets into her appendix, avoiding major surgery. He then removed her appendix, and the magnets. These magnets can be found in toys, in jewelry and are even marketed as desktop toys for adults. The magnets the fifth grader was playing with are a popular brand known as, “Buckyballs,” which are small 5mm balls in diameter.

“U.S. PIRG has highlighted the dangers of magnets in children’s toys for several years now. We have alerted parents and families to these hazards in our Tips for Toy Safety. These small, but powerful magnets used in magnetic building toys and magnetic jewelry cause serious injury and death from swallowing.  Many magnetic toys on the market use neodymium iron boron magnets as they are easy for manufacturers to import from China.  In 2006 the Consumer Product Safety Commission was aware of 34 incidents including one death and three intestinal perforations.

“In our 2009 Trouble in Toyland Report, we recommended the Consumer Product Safety Commission have prominent warning labels on all children’s products about the dangers of magnets.

“The Consumer Product Safety Commission should revisit this hazard and reconsider asking manufacturers to put prominent and very visible warnings labels on all products both for children and adults that contain these magnets. No parent should have to worry about the toys their children play with.”

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