After Children’s Hospitals in Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati See Rise in Cases of Children Swallowing Harmful and Potentially Fatal High-Powered Magnets, Brown Urges Consumer Product Safety Commission to Act to Warn Parents About These “Desk Toys”

Shiny, Round Magnets Marketed Under “Buckyballs” and Other Labels, May Look Like Candy to Children; Swallowing Magnets Can Cause Serious Internal Injuries or Even Death Magnets Were Banned From Children’s Toys in 2007 But Remain Available for Purchase as “Desk Toys”

WASHINGTON, D.C. –After children’s hospitals in Ohio—including those in Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati—reported to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that they are treating more and more children who have swallowed harmful and potentially fatal high-powered magnets, Brown is urging the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to act to warn parents about these magnets, often sold as “desk toys.” The shiny, round magnets are marketed as “Buckyballs,” among other labels, and may appear like candy to children, but swallowing two or more can cause serious internal injuries or even death in children.

“While marketed to individuals older than 14 years of age, too many young children are swallowing these high-powered magnets. Due to the strength of these ‘rare earth’ magnets, when children swallow more than one, they attract to one another inside of a child’s body, and can perforate children’s stomachs, tear through intestines, rip the bowel, and damage other organs as magnets connect to one another,” Brown wrote in a letter to CPSC Chairman Inez Moore Tenenbaum. “The result is that too many children who have ingested these magnets have required multiple surgeries while other children have died.”

The CPSC banned the sale of the magnets in children’s toys in 2007, but they remain available for purchase as “adult desk toys.”

“From the CPSC’s own report, incidences of children ingesting the high-powered magnets are increasing. Clearly, the CPSC’s banning the use of these magnets in children’s’ toys has proven insufficient.  I urge your agency to take swift action to take appropriate steps, including considering banning the sale these magnets, before more infants and children suffer permanent intestinal damage or death,” Brown continued in the letter.

The full text of the letter is below.

Ms. Inez Moore Tenenbaum
Chairman
Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East-West Highway
Bethesda, Maryland 20814

Dear Ms. Tenenbaum:

Given the risk they post in the hands of children, I am writing to urge the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) to take immediate action to warn parents about round, high-powered magnets being sold as “adult desk toys.”

These magnets are small, shiny, and often colorful, making them attractive to children.  Sold in packets of 100 or more, they are easy for adults to lose track of or misplace.  While marketed to individuals older than 14 years of age, too many young children are swallowing these high-powered magnets.  Parental supervision is essential, but the danger posed by these magnets is markedly different than other small objects children swallow.  Due to the strength of these “rare earth” magnets, when children swallow more than one, they attract to one another inside of a child’s body, and can perforate children’s stomachs, tear through intestines, rip the bowel, and damage other organs as magnets connect to one another.  The result is that too many children who have ingested these magnets have required multiple surgeries while other children have died. 

According to analysis of CPSC data[1], the average age of children ingesting round, high-powered, “rare earth” magnets is seven years old.  Two-thirds of children ingesting these magnets require medical attention.   More concerning still, 45 percent of reported cases required surgery.  Reports of injuries to CPSC or SaferProducts.gov include a four year old boy who now has “permanent, massive damage” to his intestines and stomach, an 18 month old male who need to have 9 inches of intestines removed, and dozens of other infants, children, and teens who required medical attention. 

The CPSC, in 2007, halted the sale of these rare-earth magnets to children as well as their inclusion in children’s toys.  Yet, the risk of harm persists and these high-powered magnets remain dangerous.  Several medical organizations – the American Academy of Pediatrics and the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition – have expressed grave concern about the hazards presented to children by these magnets.  In Columbus, Ohio, Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s and it’s Center for Injury Research and Policy is monitoring and treating injuries due to these magnets.

From the CPSC’s own report, incidences of children ingesting the high-powered magnets are increasing. Clearly, the CPSC’s banning the use of these magnets in children’s’ toys has proven insufficient.  I urge your agency to take swift action to take appropriate steps, including considering banning the sale these magnets, before more infants and children suffer permanent intestinal damage or death. 

 

###

Press Contact

(202) 224-3978