Magnets have played a large role in child development over the past century. For decades, kids have arranged some of their first words on refrigerators across the nation with colorful alphabet letters that are equipped with tiny magnets. They have explored their environments by searching for items to stick magnetic toys to. Kids have even performed “magic” tricks for friends and family with magnetic pieces. With everything from simple, basic magnets to magnets hidden in stuffed toys, building blocks, and science kits, magnets and magnetic products have become popular items for kids of all ages. Unfortunately, theses miniature wonders can also prove deadly.
The magnets that are created today are quite different than those from the past. They are stronger, smaller, and often more accessible to children. As a result, they are dangerous. Previously, when children swallowed the less powerful ferrite magnets, they often passed through the child’s system without causing harm. The newer neodymium-iron-boron magnets, however, are 10 to 20 times stronger than their older counterparts. When swallowed, they can attract each other as they travel through loops in the intestinal tract, causing holes in the intestinal wall which can result in significant injuries and even death.
Recent studies have shown that the number of serious childhood injuries and deaths caused by magnets has steadily risen in the last two decades. Although numerous toys equipped with these more powerful magnets have been recalled in the United States by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, many magnetic toys still fill the shelves of toy departments throughout the nation. Although most of these toys are equipped with warning labels that are designed to help prevent injuries, these labels are not enough. According to Matt Sharp, a product liability attorney in Nevada, “Unfortunately, many parents and caregivers do not understand the dangers of today’s magnets, and many magnetic items are not equipped with warning labels. Awareness is key to preventing injuries due to the ingestion of magnets.”