Mishaps happen, and so as a parent you want to make sure your children are as safe as possible. That includes making sure their toys are safe. Most toys aren’t a concern, but what about magnet toys? Are magnets dangerous if you swallow them? Can magnets cause death?
Let’s talk about if and how high powered magnets can harm children. To start, magnets are not all created equal. A typical fridge magnet doesn’t have a strong enough magnetic pull to create problems, even when swallowed (although choking is still a concern). So what kind of magnet is dangerous then?
What are “rare-earth” magnets? They are strong, permanent magnets made of alloys of rare earth elements (metals) but they are actually not rare like their name suggests. Also called Neodymium magnets, these magnets are 30 times stronger than a fridge magnet. They are used in hard drives, speakers, and MRI machines. They are also used in children’s construction toys and in tiny ball form. Buckyballs and Zen Magnets sold these round Neodymium magnets as desk toys. Currently, Speks, Wish.com, and Amazon still sell them in balls, cubes, and blocks.
How High Powered Magnets Can Harm Children
So what makes these “rare-earth” magnets dangerous for kids?
There may not be many risks from just holding magnets, but are magnets dangerous if you swallow them? Swallowing magnets is the biggest danger. They are small, round, and kids are drawn to them. Swallowing one magnet might lead to choking or suffocation (if inhaled) but the real danger comes when children swallow more than one. In the stomach, they can be safely removed, but once the magnets reach the intestines, the real danger begins. The magnets are pulled together, potentially pinching or tearing the intestines. In the worst cases, it can be life threatening but the results are bad even at the best. Removing the magnets after they reach the intestines requires intensive surgery, permanently affecting your child’s intestines. If strong enough, even one magnet inside can be dangerous, if drawn toward something like a belt buckle or piece of metal outside the body.
In 2020, a 10-year-old girl accidentally swallowed 15 magnets in her sleep after pretending they were braces. The magnets traveled through her body and then clumped inside her intestines, fusing them together. The following surgery removed 7cm of her intestines and stitched the rest. She is considered lucky. Unfortunately, her story is not unique.
What is Being Done?
The CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) has made several recalls and statements on the dangers of magnets. Back in 2014, Buckyballs were recalled. In August 2021, Zen Magnets were also recalled, despite the company’s long feud with the CPSC. Zen Magnets has argued that the magnets themselves aren’t the issue, as they don’t sell to children and their products are labeled with risks and warnings similar to fireworks, but instead responsibility lies with companies selling knock-off magnets but without any kind of safety warnings, which is important to remember as a parent. You can still buy Neodymium magnets online (on Amazon for example), at retail stores, or gift shops, and these may not be labeled. Just because something is sold as a “children’s toy” doesn’t mean it is actually safe for children.
I Think My Child Has Swallowed a Magnet
If you’re uncertain if your child has swallowed a magnet, the first step is to call your local poison control center. You can also contact your doctor or go straight to the ER. Don’t wait as putting off treatment could lead to severe injury or even death.
- Abdominal pain
Unfortunately, these symptoms are common with kids, potentially being mistaken for the flu or an upset stomach.
What Should You Do as a Parent?
Educate your kids about how high powered magnets can harm children. Teach them not to put magnets in or near their mouths. Teach kids and teens not to use them as pretend piercings. Although they are cool, they are too dangerous for kids. If you own a set of Rare-Earth magnets, throw them away (safely) or keep them in a secure, out of reach place. Keep count of the magnets you do use and monitor your children while they play.
Troomi knows that magnets aren’t the only danger to our kids from technology. That’s why we’ve created childsafe smartphones that teach your kids the skills they need to be safe with our ever changing world of tech. Check out Troomi today.