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Ingesting magnets can cause serious injuries, agency warns

November 10, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Beware of magnet sets such as these that contain powerful mini-magnets that can be swallowed by children.
Beware of magnet sets such as these that contain powerful mini-magnets… (Associated Press )

If you're thinking about giving someone one of those building sets made of mini-magnets this holiday season, proceed with caution. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a health warning about toys and other products that are made up of or contain small magnets.

Those little high-powered mini-magnets can kill children if two or more are swallowed, says the safety alert. If swallowed in multiples, or if a magnet is swallowed along with another metal object, they won't necessarily pass through the body. They can magnetize through the intestinal wall, possible creating perforations, blockage and twisting in the intestines, plus infection, blood poisoning and death.

The commission said it knows of at least 33 cases of children who were injured after swallowing magnets (although it didn't say over what period of time), in addition to the death of a 20-month old and 19 kids who required surgery to remove magnets.

While not stated in the report, we're guessing the same warnings would hold true for pets as well.

Among safety and prevention tactics, the safety commission says to keep small magnets, toys or products with small magnets away from young children, and check toys regularly for missing or loose magnets. If you know or suspect a child has swallowed a magnet, seek immediate medical attention. Be aware of symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

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