According to a news release from the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, toys that contain magnets made of “rare earth” mineral that contain the strongest magnetic force on earth.
“When they are swallowed separately, they attract each other, killing whatever tissue is between them. Symptoms do not appear until the damage has been done,” the news release said.
If a magnet has been swallowed, it must be removed surgically “often requires the repair of the child’s damaged stomach and intestines,” according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which has warned of the hazards.
Reported incidents of children swallowing the BB-sized magnets began around 2002. Since 2008, two-hundred cases have been reported to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) regarding children swallowing “magnet toy” balls. Some children required emergency surgery to remove the magnets. In one case, a 20-month-old died of his injuries.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these safety tips:
- Keep all small magnets and tiny cubes away from anyone younger than 14.
- Regularly check toys and play areas, including carpeting, for dislodged or lost magnets.
- Warn teens to avoid placing the tiny magnetic balls near their faces, such as to mimic piercings.
- Seek immediate medical attention if you think a child has swallowed a magnet (and don’t assume it will pass normally). Symptoms include abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, all of which can be mistaken for other illnesses.