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Children at risk from swallowing magnets

Many children are becoming injured and requiring medical attention after swallowing high-powered magnet desk toys. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, charged with protecting the public against injury from adangerous product, is drafting plans to prohibit the further sale of such toys. Based on information gathered, the CPSC believes that approximately 1,700 children were treated in hospital emergency rooms after swallowing such magnets during a three-year period that ended last December. Few parents in Maryland or elsewhere realize that these small toys can pose a serious danger if swallowed by their children.

Even more disturbing, when a child ingests two or more magnets, the items can pull together, trapping or pinching tissue in the child's intestines or digestive tract, causing serious injuries with long-term consequences. This can even result in holes and tears in the intestines. Such injuries can sometimes require multiple surgeries to repair, and can even put a child at risk of death. High-powered magnets can be difficult to pull apart even outside the body.

The CPSC's proposed ban would apply only to magnets capable of fitting in a "small parts cylinder." Magnets that are exceedingly weak would also not fall under the rule.

Assortments of magnets are currently marketed and sold by some toy companies for use by children. The toy companies promote the desk toys as providing stress relief, mental stimulation and entertainment. Children are encouraged to use the magnets for sculpture building, puzzle working and other purposes.

Sometimes, such toys are purchased for older children who might be less likely to put them in their mouths or swallow them. Unfortunately, the tiny toys can be picked up by their younger brothers or sisters or by other children visiting the household.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Kids' Swallowing Magnets Concerns Agency," Tish Kraft, Sept. 6, 2012

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