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Magnetic desk toy danger returns

1666 calls to Poison Control for children ingesting high-powered magnets last year

SAN ANTONIO – Tiny but powerful rare-earth magnets sold as desk toys were banned several years ago. But now, some are back on the market, resulting in children being treated in the emergency room.

Curious children are known to put them in their mouths and swallow them, causing life-threatening injuries.

In 2012, 22-month old Braylon Jordan was just one of thousands of children who ended up in the emergency room after swallowing tiny magnets. The magnets’ powerful force perforated his intestine, most of which had to be surgically removed.

They are not just any magnets. Rare-earth magnets can be 30 times stronger than ordinary refrigerator magnets. They are powerful for their size and can be difficult to separate.

“If they’re swallowed, (they) can pinch together breaking through the intestinal tract lining causing serious trauma,” said James Dickerson, Ph.D, Consumer Reports’ chief scientific officer.

The type of magnets that caused Braylon’s injuries were banned in 2014, but two years later, a panel of federal judges voted two to one to rescind the ban, and the magnets starting showing up on store shelves again.

In 2016, when the rare-earth magnets were banned, the number of ingestions reported to Poison Control was 281. Since then, the number has risen to an estimated 1,666 in 2019.

“Now that the ban has been lifted, and these products are much more readily available, parents, please be vigilant about protecting your kids,” Dickerson said. “Educate them about the hazards, and certainly, if you have young kids, avoid having them ( powerful magnets) in your house.”

The Toy Association lobby points out that “these rare-earth magnets are designed and sold as adult stress-relievers or executive desk products and are not intended to be used as children’s toys.”


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