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Small Magnet Sets: A Trend and a Hazard

Small magnetic balls and cubes came onto the market in recent years, and quickly became a popular desk toy in offices all across the United States. The little metal balls are cubes are entirely magnetic, and can be built into a variety of shapes and forms. Yet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recently determined that there are too many dangers related to these magnets, and they need to be recalled in order to protect people from health hazards. Studies show that the magnets were responsible for about 1,700 emergency room visits between 2009 and 2011.

The majority of the injuries affected children. About 70 percent of all the emergency room visits regarded a child between 4 and 12. The small magnets are not marketed to children, but are not labeled with a warning that says “not for use by children.” In a lot of cases, the children would accidentally swallow the magnets. If they swallowed more than one, the two magnets often connected in the digestive tract, pinching intestines or organs and creating a significant danger. The pinched organs brought on other health problems, and many times the patients had to go into surgery to remove the magnets from their bodies.

In addition to pinching the intestines, the magnets would clamp onto body tissues or cause perforations or sepsis in the body. In some cases, ingesting the magnets ended in death. The internal damage from the magnets can leave lifelong effects, even if the child survived. In Washington D.C., the Commission has voted 4 to 0 to propose a new federal standard. This new federal standard will make sure that the high powered magnet sets don’t pose a danger to civilians. It would create manufacturing requirements, including a requirement to abide by certain size and strength rules. If the standard is invoked, then manufacturers who don’t follow federal manufacturing guidelines will not be sold.