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Feds issue rule to limit harm to children, teens from high-powered magnets

MagnetsLARGEA new national safety standard for high-powered magnets sets limits on the size and power of the magnets.

The magnets are hazardous to children, who put them in their mouths and swallow them. The magnets also can harm teens and tweens, who used them to create mock lip, tongue, and nose piercings.

Consumer advocates and pediatricians applaud the commission’s adoption of a final rule Thursday to address the hazards posed by high-powered magnets.

“We applaud the CPSC for issuing this important mandatory rule,” said Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and senior counsel for the Consumer Federation of America.

Hazardous magnet sets usually contain about 200 magnets, but some sets can have up to 1,700.

If more than one magnet is swallowed, the magnets attract each other, pinching or trapping intestines or other digestive tissue between them. A serious injury can occur that requires surgery and can lead to lifelong health problems or death.

High-powered magnet sets were responsible for the death of a 19-month-old girl and about 2,900 emergency room-treated injuries between 2009 and 2013, the commission said.

Under the new standard, an individual magnet from a set either must be large enough that the magnet doesn’t fit in the commission’s small parts cylinder or its magnetic force must be below a defined measure.

Some hazardous magnet sets had a magnetic force that was 37 times greater than what the new performance standard allows.

The rule applies to high-powered magnet sets and to individual magnets to be use as part of a set.

The commission urges consumers to stop using high-powered magnets that don’t comply with the new federal standard.

“The powerful, tiny magnets contained in these toys and other similar products have caused unnecessary surgeries, debilitating injuries, irreversible gastrointestinal damage, and other lifelong health impacts in infants, children, and adolescents,” said James M. Perrin, M.D., president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Pediatricians have been ringing an alarm bell about these products since we first recognized the damage they cause, and the CPSC listened.”

Consumers can visit the commission’s Magnet Safety Information Center at www.cpsc.gov/magnets for more information, including a “Teen to Teen: Magnet Talk” video and “Magnets Go in Easier Than They Come Out” poster.

Copyright 2014, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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