CPSC Issues New Magnet Toy Safety Warning Following Massive Recall

Following a massive Zen and Neoballs magnet recall issued earlier this week, federal health officials are warning consumers to keep high powered-magnetic toys away from children, due to a risk they may suffer severe and often fatal injuries of the pieces are ingested and attract across intestinal walls.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued the magnetic toy warning on August 17, following thousands of reports of children and teenagers accidentally or intentionally ingesting high-powered magnetic toys in recent years, often resulting in the need for emergency surgical interventions, severe health complications or death.

The magnet toy sets are designed to be formed into shapes and patterns, and are typically sold as executive desk toys. However, the toys began to cause major concerns in 2012, after reports surfaced that children and teens were suffering severe injuries after accidentally ingesting the magnets after using them to mimic mouth or tongue piercings, or young children accidentally swallowing the small, shiny metal balls, leading to a number of serious and potentially life threatening injuries.

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Officials warn that if more than one of the powerful magnets are swallowed, they may attract to each other while moving through the intestines. This may cause the magnets to become lodged in the digestive system and cause twisting, perforations or blockages in the intestines. Often this results in the need for emergency removal surgery and can result in death or severe life-long health problems for the child.

According to the CPSC, from 2009 through 2018 there have been an estimated 4,500 magnet-related cases treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for ingestions of magnets with characteristics of magnet sets. Officials warned that the majority of these incidents involved children between 11 months to 16 years of age.

Over the last several years, the CPSC has been engaged in an ongoing battle with several manufacturers marketing high-powered magnetic toys, arguing that it has been established that warnings are not sufficient to protect children. The agency has filed several administrative complaints to remove the products from the market, and ultimately putting in new national safety standards in 2014, limiting the size and strength to mitigate the severity of ingestion injuries.

CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler warned parents and consumers to be extremely cautious when purchasing toy magnet products on e-commerce sites, as many of them come from foreign firms and do not meet the CPSC’s small parts cylinder sizing requirements or the magnetic power standards.

The warning was issued just hours after the agency announced the massive Zen Magnets and Neoballs Magnets recall, impacting 10 million toys sets due to the unacceptable risks associated with accidentally or intentionally ingesting the small pieces.

According to incident report outlined in the recall, Zen Magnets was aware of two children who required surgery to remove parts of their intestines and bowels after consuming the company’s toy magnets. In addition, a 19-month-old girl died after ingesting a similar brand of high-powered magnets.

Initial symptoms associated with swallowing the small magnets may be similar to that of a common flu, consisting of vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain, causing the problems not to be promptly recognized until certain medical examinations are done, further delaying treatment and allowing the magnets to attract

A report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, highlights the dangers associated with these high-powered magnetic balls and offers the following safety tips:

  • Keep all small magnets and tiny cubes away from anyone younger than 14.
  • Regularly check toys and play areas, including carpeting, for dislodged or lost magnets.
  • Warn teens to avoid placing the tiny magnetic balls near their faces, such as to mimic piercings.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you think a child has swallowed a magnet (and don’t assume it will pass normally). Symptoms may include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, all of which could be mistaken for other illnesses.

Many of the manufacturers have had magnetic toy lawsuits filed against them, claiming they failed to follow federal regulator market withdrawal requests, resulting in injuries to consumers.

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