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Joint Statement of CPSC and Safe Kids on Magnet Poisoning

May 10, 2012

JOINT STATEMENT OF INEZ M. TENENBAUM, CHAIRMAN
OF THE U.S. CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION AND
KATE CARR, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF SAFE KIDS WORLDWIDE
ON THE DANGERS OF MAGNET INGESTION BY CHILDREN

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has spoken out in various ways—including product recalls—about the dangers facing children who have access to small, powerful magnets, and swallow them. These magnets are found in children’s toys, as well as in adult desk toys. In some cases, small children think the magnets are candy, and older children have used the magnets to imitate body piercings in the mouth and nose.

When ingested, especially in larger numbers, these magnets can attract through stomach and intestinal walls and cause severe damage to a child’s stomach and small intestines. Dozens of children have been rushed into surgery to have these high-powered magnets removed before the damage to their bodies turned fatal.

Notwithstanding past warnings, this year has seen at least two very serious cases. Very recently, a two-year-old Mississippi boy swallowed eight heavy magnets from a popular game. He is being treated at the New Orleans Children’s Hospital, and Safe Kids received an alert about the case. The collection of magnets made it to his intestines and caused severe injury. He is being fed through a tube and may require an intestinal transplant, a difficult surgery for children.

Earlier this year, CPSC reported about a three-year-old Oregon girl who ate 37 magnets from a popular executive desk toy. The magnets made a circle in her stomach, and on an x-ray, medical staff thought she had swallowed a bracelet. The magnets tore holes in her intestines, and doctors had to operate. Fortunately, she is recovering well.

We strongly urge parents and caregivers to keep magnets away from the reach of children and make sure older children know that they are not ingestible toys or jewelry. While these items may look like innocent office desk toys, in the hands and mouths of children, they present a great danger.

We offer the following tips to avoid magnet ingestion injuries in addition to advice on what to do if you suspect that your child has swallowed magnets:

  • Keep small magnets away from young children who might swallow them. This includes magnets found in construction sets, children’s toys, stress-relieving adult desk toys, and refrigerator magnets.
  • Look out for loose magnet pieces and inspect toys and children's play areas regularly for missing or dislodged magnets.
  • If you suspect that magnets have been swallowed, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Look for abdominal symptoms, such as pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Note that in x-rays, multiple magnetic pieces may appear as a single object.

More on Magnet Poisoning

  • Visit the CPSC Magnet Dangers Webpage
  • Read the Safe Kids Worldwide Blog on Magnet Poisoning

More Public Policy News

  • Arizona Governor Brewer Signs Into Law the Nation’s 48th Booster Seat Law
  • Connecticut Legislature Passes Bill Requiring Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Media Contact

Jen Pollakusky
Media Manager
jpollakusky@safekids.org
202-662-4476