Magnets are used in nearly every home in the United States and rarely consider dangerous, but can pose a threat when ingested. Unfortunately, magnets are in toys and other items in the home, exposing children to harm. Every year, children are forced to undergo emergency surgery because they’ve swallowed a magnet their parent might not have even known was inside of a toy or other product.
Consumer advocates are calling for more to be done to raise awareness concerning the harm caused by magnets. Legal action has also been taken against companies that manufactured toys with magnets and sold those toys to children harmed by them. To date, very few manufacturers have taken drastic action to reduce the risks posed to children, so parents need to understand the potential risk and keep their children safe.
Magnetic Toys and Health Emergencies
Over the years, there have been numerous health emergencies involving children and magnets. The most common reason for concern involves refrigerator and office magnets. Tens of thousands of magnets have been recalled due to the risk associated with small magnets. In 2014, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall that involved Design Ideas magnets. These were miniature magnets shaped like ducks, fish, and other child-friendly designs and intended to be played with by children.
The toys included a small, detachable magnet, which could be swallowed by young children. Swallowing a magnet poses a risk for bowel or intestinal obstruction, perforation, or sepsis. These magnets were sold at Nordstrom’s Rack stores, CB2, and other gift, novelty, book, and art stores throughout the country until September 2013.
The Design Ideas toys are not the only to face issues with safety related to magnets. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission has been studying the safety risks associated with magnets since the summer of 2012 when it was discovered safety warnings issued with magnets and toys featuring powerful, rare earth magnets were not effective.
Buckyball Magnet Recall
According to one recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, there have been an increasing number of ingestion incidents of magnets in recent years. Researchers found that since 2001, there have been approximately 2700 ingestion incidents, nearly 100 of which resulted in injuries. In six cases, emergency surgery was needed to remove the magnet and in 10 cases, the magnet had to be endoscopically removed. The increase in ingestion incidents coincides with the popularity of toy magnet sets made for children. The study showed the average incident involves a child of approximately four to five years old.
More than a dozen manufacturers were asked to issue a voluntary recall of magnetic ball toys in 2012. Of those requests, only 11 were honored. In response, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a rare administrative complaint in an attempt to force a recall of Buckyball toys and Zen Magnets toys. These complaints are an aggressive method for forcing a recall of a product when a manufacturer will not participate in a voluntary recall.
The administrative complaint stated there have been multiple reports of toddlers finding loose Buckyball and Buckycube magnets and swallowing them. Once ingested, these magnets can attract within the digestive system and cause serious internal injuries, including organ perforation and death. Buckyball and Buckycube toys feature more than 200 powerful rare earth magnets. At least a dozen swallowing incidents directly related to Buckyballs have been reported since 2009.
Understanding the Risk of Magnet Ingestion
Some of the concern over the safety of magnetic toys deals with the inability to know if a child has swallowed a part of the toy until there is a serious problem. It’s possible for the magnet to be swallowed and pass through the child’s digestive system without incident, but there is also a risk that magnet ingestion can create serious problems.
Symptoms associated with complications resulting from having swallowed a small magnet include:
- Stomach pain
- Other flu-like symptoms
According to consumer data, approximately three million magnet toy sets have been sold in the country since 2010. Despite an educational campaign for consumers and the warning labels included on these toys, injuries continue to occur.
Our goal is to ensure consumers understand the risks associated with magnetic toys and that parents make informed decisions when shopping for their children. We also want families to know there might be legal options if their children were harmed because of Buckyballs or other magnetic toys.