Consumer products increasingly include dangerous high-powered magnets,
which can cause serious injuries if swallowed. According to the latest
statistics, high-powered magnets have been associated with 7,700 emergency
room-treated injuries and at least one death.
To address these risks, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
is moving forward on a mandatory standard for high-powered magnets. High-powered
magnets and magnet components that are of a size that can be swallowed
are already prohibited in toys for children younger than age 14. The new
rules would apply to products that are marketed for adults, such as stress
relievers and desk toys.
The CPSC report highlights that these magnet sets have strong appeal to
children, who can suffer serious injuries if they are ingested. In the
one death reported to the agency, the parents of the child did not realize
that she had ingested the magnets, and doctors thought she had a virus.
An autopsy later revealed that she had swallowed seven magnets.
“This case illustrates how difficult it is to diagnose the injuries
associated with ingested magnets: the symptoms seemed to indicate a common
stomach ailment or poisoning,” the CPSC report states.
When two or more magnets are swallowed, they can attract one another internally,
resulting in serious injuries, such as small holes in the stomach and
intestines, intestinal blockage, blood poisoning, and even death. Many
children require surgery to remove the magnets and repair the damage.
The proposed mandatory standard would establish performance requirements
for magnet sets based on their size and strength. Magnet sets that do
not meet the performance requirement could not be sold as a manipulative
or a desk toy.