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Rare-earth magnets pose danger to children when swallowed

March 1, 2021












The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is reminding parents that strong rare-earth magnets can cause serious injuries or death if children swallow them.

The small magnets are round and cube shaped. They are used in products that are marketed as desk toys for adults, but children should not play with them.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the sale of the strong magnets in 2014, but the ban was removed in 2016. Since then, the National Poison Data system and CPSC have reported an increase in major injuries to children who swallowed the magnets.

“Any child who ingests them is going to be in grave danger,” said Benjamin D. Hoffman, M.D., FAAP, who chairs the AAP Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention. “By nature, kids, especially toddlers and early school age kids, are inherently curious. Their entire job is to explore the world, and a lot of how they explore things is by putting things in their mouths.” 

If more than one magnet is swallowed, they can attract each other through walls of the intestines and cause severe injuries. 

Parents might not realize their child has swallowed magnets. A child might vomit or complain of a stomachache. Parents might think the symptoms are due to an illness like the flu.  

Parents should seek medical help right away if they believe their child ingested magnets because the child might need surgery. 

Dr. Hoffman offered the following advice to parents to prevent children from swallowing rare-earth magnets:

  • Get rid of any rare-earth magnets that are in your household. 
  • If you can’t get rid of the magnets, put them in a locked container out of children’s reach.
  • Keep a close eye on young children. 
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