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Cases of children ingesting high-powered magnets soar nearly 450%, study shows

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Columbus, OH — After a U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a ban on high-powered magnets used in children’s toys in 2016, the number of calls to poison control centers because kids ingested the magnets increased nearly 450% annually over the next three years, results of a recent study from two children’s hospitals show.

Researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital at Montefiore analyzed calls to poison control centers from 2008 through October 2019 to determine the impact of a 2012 Consumer Product Safety Commission rule banning the sale of such magnets.

During the 12-year study period, the researchers identified 5,738 high-power magnet ingestions among teens and children 12 and younger. From 2012 through 2016 – when the magnets were removed from the market – average yearly cases decreased 33%.

When the ban was lifted and products with the magnets became available again, the average number of annual cases soared 444%. In addition, cases requiring hospital treatment jumped 355%. Most of the cases involved patients younger than 6 (62%). Eighty-four percent of all cases resulted in an injury.

According to the researchers, the magnets can cause serious internal injuries in children. When more than one magnet is swallowed, they can attract to each other across tissue in the body; cut off blood supply to the bowel; and cause obstructions, tissue necrosis, sepsis and even death.


“Regulations on these products were effective, and the dramatic increase in the number of high-powered magnet-related injuries since the ban was lifted – even compared to pre-ban numbers – is alarming,” lead study author Leah Middelberg, an emergency medicine physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said in a press release. “Because damage caused by magnets can be serious, it’s so important to keep these kinds of magnets out of the reach of children and, ideally, out of the home.”

The study was published online Jan. 28 in the Journal of Pediatrics.

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