Magnetic Play Sets Continue to Endanger ChildrenFeb 5, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Magnetic play sets can be extremely hazardous for children. The strong rare earth magnets included with many magnetic play sets have been known to cause serious intestinal injuries in children who swallow them. A recent story in “US News and World Report” about the ordeal one child underwent after swallowing such magnets illustrates just how devastating magnetic play set injuries can be.
Magnet toy sets are considered by many consumer advocates to be among the most dangerous toys on the market. Magnetix Building Sets were the first magnetic toy sets subject to a large scale recall in 2006, following the death of a toddler who swallowed a magnet that had come loose from its casing. The magnets in Magnetix, like those in many magnetic play sets, are high-energy neodymium iron boron magnets. If a child swallows more than one of these powerful magnets, they can be attracted to each other while in the intestinal tract. As a result, the magnets clump together, causing the intestines to twist. This can cause intestinal blockages, bowel perforations and even death. By the time the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) issued its first Magnetix recall in 2006, it had received 34 reports of injuries related to the toy. Since the Magnetix incident, other magnet play sets have been recalled. Mattel has issued recalls for 18 million other magnetic toys in several popular lines including Polly Pockets and Batman. Just last week, 125,000 Battat Magnabild Magnetic Building Systems are being recalled after the commission received 16 reports of magnets coming loose from the toys.
The article in “US News and World Report” details the story of Braden Eberle, 4, of San Jose, Calif., who swallowed two tiny magnets from his older brother's construction kit on two successive days last spring. Braden told his mother after he swallowed the first magnet, but she thought it would eventually pass through his system without incident. But by dinnertime on the day after Braden swallowed the second magnet, he developed stomach pains. The next morning, with Braden still in pain, the family's doctor told his parents to take him straight to the emergency room where an X-ray revealed the two magnets were stuck together. What’s worse, the magnets which had lodged in two different parts of the intestine, were attracted to each other through the intestinal tissue, and the wall of each segment was stuck together. The magnets squeezed the walls of the intestines together, causing the tissue between them to rot away, creating holes in the intestinal tract.
Fortunately for Braden, a surgeon was able to use minimally invasive laparoscopy to remove both magnets with three small incisions during a procedure that lasted two hours. Braden went home three days after the operation.
But Braden’s surgeon, Dr. Sanjeev Dutta, told “US News and World Reports” that parents need to be aware of the dangers magnet play sets pose to their young children. "It's a new type of magnet that's extremely powerful, much more powerful than the magnets that we used to play with," Dutta explained. "It seems like such a benign thing. But these things look like candy to a 3-year-old."