Magnetic toys a danger to children

By Sheryl Kay • Published: August 14th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

They’re small, they’re cute and they stick together for seemingly no apparent reason, so it’s easy to understand why magnetic toys readily attract young children.

What’s a little harder to fathom is why, after a five-year history of injuries and lawsuits, some companies continue to manufacture toys and other objects, like jewelry, that are small, easily ingestible and potentially lethal.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than two dozen incidents involving children and magnetic toys have been recorded since 2003. These youngsters ingested one magnet after another or one magnet and then another small piece of metal. The two objects are then drawn to each other, creating a very dangerous adhesion or blockage.

Earlier this year, a young California boy wound up in the operating room because he swallowed two small magnetic pieces from his brother’s construction kit.

A paper in a recent issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine describes the case. The magnets ended up lodging in two different parts of the intestine. Drawn to each other, they pinched the tissue so tightly it rotted, creating a hole that had to be surgically repaired.

Physicians warn that even one magnet can cause a problem if a child also swallows something else made of metal.

Of course, when it comes to kids and safety, there’s no substitute for close supervision. But when it comes to stocking the toy chest, parents might be well-advised to consider sticking to items that steer clear of tiny magnets.