High Powered Magnets – More Surgical Cases Involving Children and Teenagers

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In our 1st Issue of E-Magazine published September 2012, I reported that United States Federal Officials filed a lawsuit against Maxfield & Oberton, the manufacturer of 'Buckyballs' demanding a recall of magnetic desk toys, that they stop selling this product, and alert consumers that the product is defective.  Despite educational campaigns involving social media, public service announcements and online warnings, reports of injuries to children continued to occur and therefore proved ineffective.

The North American Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition reported 480 cases of high-

powered magnet ingestions in the last ten years.  There are also a number of new cases involving teenagers who use magnets to mimic a tongue, nose, or lip piercing and inadvertently swallow or inhale the magnets.  Based on cases from 2008 through 2012, 80% required either endoscopy or surgery, including several that required removing portions of the bowel, which can cause long-term complications. Slightly more than 50% of the cases involved children age six and under and 16% occurred among teenagers.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal issued a report stating a three-year-old boy was taken to Sick Children's Hospital after swallowing three 5-millimetre high-powered magnets that had gone through his digestive tract to the lower end of his small intestine and trapped two loops of the organ, which caused a blockage.  Surgeons performed scope-guided abdominal surgery to remove the magnetic balls wherein the boy recovered but other children are not so fortunate.

The magnets are made of rare-earth mineral neodymium and are at least 15 times more powerful than standard magnets.  They stick together with such force that if more than one is swallowed, they can bore holes in the stomach or intestines and cause severe, life-threatening complications within hours.  If the high-powered magnets are not detected and removed, they can cause tissue necrosis where two loops of bowel are squeezed together which occludes the blood supply to that area of the gut causing infection, dissemination – and sometimes death.

Symptoms

Signs that your child has swallowed a magnet include drooling, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever but please keep in mind that your child will not show discomfort or pain until the magnets have actually connected with one another.

Young children put objects in their mouth as part of their motor-sensory development.  Parents, caregivers, guardians, babysitters and teachers need to be aware of the risks and dangers posed to youngsters by these high-powered magnets.  Please make sure magnets are out of reach of your children's grasp at all times.

Where are they banned?

High-powered magnets are banned in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.  On April 16th, 2013, Health Canada reported it is planning to ban the sale of 'Buckyballs'.

Resources

For additional information, Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following articles:

Diligencia Investigative Reporting - High Powered Magnets Pulled from Canadian Shelves Mandatory Recall

Buckyballs

Written by Veronika Bradley, Editor for Children's Health and Safety Association – April 8, 2013 and Republished by Diligencia Investigative Reporting – Aoril 2019

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