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Small magnets recalled in rare mandatory action due to danger to children

Magnets Go in Easier Than They Come Out CPSC IllustrationHigh-powered magnetic balls and cubes are dangerous. 

A mandatory recall of 10 million Zen and Neoballs magnets due to an ingestion hazard and risk of death was announced Tuesday by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Most recalls are done voluntarily with the company and CPSC working together to get dangerous products out of consumers’ hands. Because Zen didn’t agree to a voluntary recall, CPSC sued the company for the mandatory recall. 

When high-powered magnets are swallowed, they can interact with each other or other metallic objects, such as material attracted to magnets, and become lodged in the digestive system. This can result in perforations, twisting and/or blockage of the intestines, infection, blood poisoning, and death.

These injuries can occur when infants, toddlers, and teens ingest the magnets. An example is when teens use the magnets to mimic mouth piercings and swallow them accidentally. 

To help protect children from this hazard, CPSC has issued violation notices to companies that market high-powered magnetic balls and cubes as toys for children, telling the companies to notify purchasers and warn of the dangers to children. CPSC also requests major online platforms remove these products from their sites.

“When consumers see these products marketed for children on trusted e-commerce sites, many of these items sold by foreign firms, consumers assume they are safe,” said Acting Chairman Robert Adler.

But, these magnets can cause lifelong injury, or worse, to kids, Adler said.

“That’s why it’s so important that e-commerce sites not allow these products to be sold to kids and why kids are safest when these products are not in the home,” he said.

In some cases, when the magnet firms weren’t responsive, CPSC worked with e-commerce sites to issue safety alert notices directly to purchasers.

“The sad truth is we’re playing whack-a-mole with these dangerous products, and each one we miss could have grave consequences for young children and teens,” said Adler. “But until we can get these products off the market entirely, we just have to be vigilant.”

The agency is also warning parents and caregivers to be cautious with magnets that aren’t subject to the Toy Standard and are marketed for adults. Many magnet ingestion incident reports involving children and teens were from magnets marketed only to adults.

From 2009 to 2018, there were two deaths in the U.S. and an estimated 4,500 magnet-related cases treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for ingestions of magnets, mostly by children 11 months to 16 years old. The magnets were like those from magnet sets – for example, many small, round magnets.

To help prevent serious magnet ingestion injuries and deaths, follow these safety tips:

  • Make sure your children, including teens, understand the magnet ingestion hazard and to never put magnets near their mouth or nose. It’s important to explain that magnet ingestions often occur accidentally while playing or using the magnets like piercings.
  • Remove magnet sets, small magnets, and small pieces containing magnets from the homes with children who might mistakenly, or intentionally, swallow them.
  • Look out for loose magnetic pieces and regularly inspect toys and children’s play areas for missing or dislodged magnets.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect your child may have swallowed a magnet. 
  • Look for abdominal symptoms, such as abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In some cases, these and other symptoms may not appear until after serious internal injury has occurred. So, don’t wait for symptoms.
  • Note that objects in x-rays may appear as a single object that could actually be multiple magnetic pieces separated by trapped intestinal walls.
  • Check cpsc.gov to make sure your children’s magnetic toys haven’t been recalled. If they’ve been recalled, stop using them immediately, and get the remedy offered by the company.

To learn more about why magnetic balls are so dangerous to children, go to www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/Magnets

CPSC continues its enforcement efforts to address the hazard of dangerous magnets by issuing notices of violation and recalls, Adler said. For a listing of recalls and notices of violations to companies that marketed their magnetic balls and cubes to children in violation of federal safety standards for toys, click here.

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