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High-Powered Magnet Labels Are Not Attracting Caregiver Attention

October 3, 2022

In March of this year, we published a study by Dr. Leah Middleberg from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and colleagues about the dangers of high-powered magnets. These magnets, sold in kits of hundreds, are small and powerful, and can lead to significant injury and death (10.1542/peds.2021-054543). In 2012, they were removed from sale to consumers, but a federal court decision in 2016 led to their return. Some manufacturers of these high-powered magnets have responded to safety concerns with warning labels stating they should not be used by children less than 14 years. How effective are these labels in preventing injury?

Dr. Middleberg and colleagues share with us a survey of caregivers of children with magnet exposures (ingestion or insertion) from the “Injuries, Morbidity, and Parental Attitudes Concerning Tiny High-Powered Magnets” (10.1542/peds.2022-056325). This study evaluated high-powered magnet exposures seen at 25 children’s hospitals between 2017 and 2019. Caregivers were asked about their beliefs or attitudes about these magnets, whether a warning label was on the product, and their attitudes around the risk of these products. 200 patient families of children 0- to 21-years were reached by phone and 87% agreed to be interviewed. Respondents noted that warning labels were present in 24% of cases, absent in 22% of cases, and 54% of participants could not remember if a warning was present. Of the 28 who knew there was a warning label, only 13 admitted they had read the warning, meaning 90% overall of caregivers did not pay attention or even know there was a warning label on these magnet kits. 

Just as worrisome was that fact that while 58% of parents knew the magnets were dangerous before their child was exposed to one causing injury, 93% did not know they had been removed from the market in the US and then restored, and 24% did not get rid of the magnets after the worrisome exposure. Despite the warnings of manufacturers that these products are not for children, 44% of parents thought the products were children’s toys, with the vast remainder calling them desk toys or stress relievers, fasteners, hooks, or jewelry.

The authors do a good job noting limitations of relying on caregiver report. Still, many reported they ignored or were unaware of the labels placed on the packaging of these high-powered tiny magnets. Link to this article and the one from March and you’ll further understand why these products are a problem.

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