CPSC Hearing Highlights Concerns About High-Powered Magnet Sets

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Yesterday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission held a hearing centered around “toys” that are basically a set of small, high-powered magnets that can connect to one another.  Unfortunately, numerous incident reports have sparked concerns among safety advocates and calls for the products to be banned, an opinion that was held up by many who spoke at the hearing.

The worry with these products is that they can be swallowed and attract one another once inside the system of the person (usually a young child) who swallowed them.  Because of the power of these magnets, they can draw each other through an individual’s gastrointestinal system, causing perforations that could do serious and even fatal damage.  Once ingested, a surgical operation is often the only way to correct such a safety issue.

The CPSC has proposed a ban on the sale of those magnets that are small enough to swallow and that have a strength rating higher than 50.  At the hearing, it became clear that many are in favor of this proposal.  One doctor from Virginia Commonwealth University who spoke on the matter noted that only one or two in ten cases of ingestion of objects like coins and pins require immediate removal, with the rest passing through naturally.  With magnets, the number increases to eight in ten.  One in ten requires major surgery.