Super Magnets Are Still Finding Their Way Into Kids' Hands
October 28, 2013

Despite Warnings, Magnet-Related Injuries On The Rise Among Children

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Nearly two years after the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) first issued a warning over the safety risks posed to children by high-powered, ball-bearing magnets, their continued availability has led to an increase in pediatric ingestion-related injuries.

In fact, researchers reviewing data on all foreign body ingestions in children under 18 years of age who were treated at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto between April 1, 2001 and December 21, 2012 found that 94 out of 2,700 ingestions involved these so-called “super” neodymium-iron-boron magnets.

The study results, which were presented Sunday at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, found that there was a “significant” increase in both single and multiple magnet ingestion since the first recorded incident in 2004. Multiple magnet ingestion increased the most over the last three years of the study, the researchers reported.

The ages of the patients involved in the study ranged from seven months to 13 years, with a mean age of 4.5 years, the AAP explained in a statement. More boys (65 percent) than girls (35 percent) were involved. Magnets had to be surgically removed in six patients, and endoscopically in 10 others. There were no fatalities reported.

These neodymium-iron-boron magnets, which are also known as “super magnets,” became available a little over 10 years ago in toys, jewelry and other novelty goods, the study authors explained. A few years later, their popularity surged due to a new line of desk toys marketed to adults. In 2012, the sale of super magnet desk toys was banned by the CPSC, and the agency also issued a recall for all existing products.

“The research we're presenting at the AAP conference confirms what we've suspected – that the ingestion of these dangerous toys has been increasing, and spiking over the past three years,” study co-author Dr. Daniel Rosenfield said. “What we're seeing is really an epidemic driven by a new technology. These new magnets are vastly more powerful, smaller in size, and seem innocuous. Parents just aren't aware of the potential danger."

“Parents, teachers, physicians and the general public need to be made aware of the potential dangers, and assure that these toys are kept away from children,” he added. “We applaud governmental bodies in the US and abroad for taking a strong stance in removing these products from the market.”

The CPSC first issued a warning about the magnets in November 2011, stating that when two or more of them were swallowed, they could become connected, leading to injuries such as holes in the stomach, intestinal blockage and blood poisoning.

In March 2012, a three-year old child was hospitalized after swallowing 37 buckyball magnets, and a March study by Dr. Rosenfield found that there was an increased danger of children ingesting the magnets and suffering potentially life-threatening injuries.