In just over a month, doctors at OHSU have removed 54 tiny toy magnets from the digestive systems of multiple young patients. Despite their need for invasive procedures and operations to repair holes in their intestines, their injuries were addressed in time and they will make full recoveries.
When two or more of these magnets – some of which are smaller than the tip of a ballpoint pen and 30 times stronger than a standard kitchen magnet – are swallowed, their powerful force pulls them together across, or between, segments of the digestive system. These connections can rapidly lead to severe damage to the intestinal tissue, which can lead to serious infections, life-long digestive conditions or death.
In 2013, following the injury and hospitalization of hundreds of children nationally, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission deemed magnetic toys and games made from rare earth elements a safety risk and recalled and banned such products from the market.
In the years immediately following this ban, magnet ingestions decreased nearly 80%.
However, a 2016 decision by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Federal District Court of Colorado to vacate the recall order put these dangerous toys back on store shelves and into homes across the country.
A recent study published in Pediatrics found that over the past two decades, the rate of foreign-body ingestions by children younger than 6 nearly doubled, and the numbers are likely to increase approximately 4% annually.
OHSU is warning to prevent the known harms associated with high-powered, multi-piece magnetic sets, it is imperative that the Consumer Product Safety Commission not only re-issue its recall order to halt further harm, but also establish a strong, mandatory safety standard for small, rare-earth magnet sets without delay. Simply eliminating magnet sets from commerce after they have already entered the consumer marketplace is not enough. The addition of this standard would prevent widely recognized harms from such magnets before they have a chance to occur.