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Rare Earth Magnets Pose Threat To Children 284

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Many of today's toys contain rare-earth magnets which are much more powerful than the magnets of yesteryear and the magnets pose a serious threat to children when more than one is ingested because as the magnets attract one another they can cause a range of serious injuries, including holes through internal organs, blood poisoning and death (PDF). Braden Eberle, 4, swallowed two tiny magnets from his older brother's construction kit on two successive days last spring and his mother's first reaction was that the magnet would pass through her son's system without a problem. "People swallow pennies of the same size every day," said Jill Eberle. "They're smaller than an eraser." But next morning, with Braden still in pain, the family's doctor told them to go straight to the emergency room where an X-ray revealed two magnets were stuck together. "They were attracted to each other with the wall of each segment they were in stuck together," said Dr. Sanjeev Dutta, the pediatric surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital who would operate on Braden later that day. "Because they were so powerful, the wall of the intestine was getting squeezed, squeezed, squeezed, and then it just necrosed, or kind of rotted away, and created a hole between the two." The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says at least 33 children have been injured from ingesting magnets (PDF) with a 20 month-old dying, and at least 19 other children requiring surgery."
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Rare Earth Magnets Pose Threat To Children

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  • by Anne_Nonymous ( 313852 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @09:32AM (#38408066) Homepage Journal

    So, ask for them to be done medium?

  • Parents (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MitchDev ( 2526834 )
    Parents paying attention to their kids is the cure, not banning magnets...
    • Re:Parents (Score:5, Informative)

      by Haedrian ( 1676506 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @09:39AM (#38408092)

      You can't keep your eye on your kids all the time. Especially if they're in a 'safe' area playing with age appropriate toys.

      • While this is true seriously as a parent....what kind of dumbass leaves magnets where a 4 YEAR OLD can get them? Now obviously this wasn't the brightest bulb in the box, at 4 my boys knew that non-food items didn't belong in the mouth but still, not very damned smart. With my boys I would have probably worried more about one drawing on the TV with it, or maybe using it to stick his brother's shirt (with his brother still in it) to the fridge, which is why I didn't leave the rare earth magnets i'd yank out o

        • Re:Parents (Score:5, Funny)

          by Errtu76 ( 776778 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @10:12AM (#38408220) Journal

          My three year old even knows that, but when the new baby arrived, she started imitating all kinds of stuff. That meant also putting this in her mouth whenever we were (yes) looking. Still, I agree with you here. I never leave small items around (or magnets for that matter) where the kids can get them.

          Btw, the button 'quote parent' seemed really appropriate here ;)

      • The toys with magnets are all labelled for older children. The problem occurs when a younger child get hold of age inappropriate toys that were purchased for older siblings. The supervision comes in the parent making sure the young child is not playing with toys designed for older children.

        If one has children of varying ages and puts all their toys together in the same room it is very easy to mix toys with different age restrictions together. It is also difficult to get older children to put away toys that

    • Re:Parents (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Shinobi ( 19308 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @09:48AM (#38408122)

      No matter how much you watch kids, they will ALWAYS find that split second they need to put something in their mouth.

    • Re:Parents (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @11:37AM (#38408562)
      I don't know if you have several kids, but I do. I don't think "paying attention" is a useful suggestion at all. It's impossible to keep track of every tiny piece from every little toy the older kids might have played with that fell under the toybox or whatever. Small kids naturally explore with their mouths, so all the garbage in this thread about "my kid is smart enough not to do this" and "darwin will sort it out" is just dumb.

      My takehome from this article is that if I still had toddlers, I would not keep toys with strong little magnets in my house. And this is a very good time of year to run this type of story.

  • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @09:38AM (#38408086)
    These magnets come with clear warnings not to let kids eat them as they may become attached inside them. Seriously, is this article nothing more than a longer version of the warning that appears on the magnets themselves?
    • by Hope Thelps ( 322083 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @09:51AM (#38408138)

      I think the key problem here is that the children don't have warning labels attached. I propose that in future hospitals tattoo babies shortly after, or if possible before, birth with something along the lines of "WARNING: child may do dangerous things". Billions of other warning labels would then be unnecessary.

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        Life causes death That should be clear to everybody. Accidents happen and humans (children and adults) will die because of it.
        When I was young my mother saw me playing at a door and was afraid my fingers would be caught between the door. She grabbed me and closed the door. Unfortunately she did not know that my sister was at the other side of the door and the top of her finger was chopped off.
        Should we now put warning labels on doors or forbid them or just realize that sometimes accidents happen?
        The fact th

    • by 1u3hr ( 530656 )
      TFA "Sim Osborn, an attorney who has spent a large portion of his career representing the families of children killed or injured by dangerous magnetized toys..."

      So the source for this is a personal injury lawyer. How many parents will feed magnets to their kids and give him a call?

  • These can be used to simulate a tongue piercing by placing one on the top of your tongue, and another below it. Obviously this leads to at least a few teenagers swallowing magnets as well.
  • Level of risk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Intron ( 870560 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @09:51AM (#38408136)

    The pdf says they are aware of a total of 33 injuries and one death in the US ever due to magnet ingestion. Out of a 300 million population that is a vanishingly small risk. Meanwhile there are something like 30,000 accidental poisonings each year. Are we really paying attention to the right things?

    • Re:Level of risk (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 17, 2011 @10:19AM (#38408252)

      Top five causes of injury death (source World Report on Child Injury Prevention 2008)
      Road crashes: 260,000 children a year
      Drowning: 175,000 children a year
      Burns: 96,000 children a year
      Falls: 47,000 children a year
      Poisoning: 45,000 children each year

      Yup worrying about rare earth magnets is pretty useless.

    • by brokeninside ( 34168 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @10:25AM (#38408282)

      I think a better comparison would be deaths (or injuries) compared to prevalence of the items in question. Of the 300,000,000 people in the US, only a small fraction live in an environment with access to rare earth magnets. But most, if not all, live in an environment where there are poisonous substances. Not to mention that according to the CDC, the overwhelming number of non-intentional poisonings are drug overdoses.

      In 2007, 93 percent of unintentional poisoning deaths were caused by drugs. Opioid pain medications, such as methadone, hydrocodone, or oxycodone, were most commonly involved, followed by cocaine and heroin. []

      I'm not certain that we're talking about the same class of problems here.

      • 33 children, not 33 people. There are no 300000 children in the USA.

      • Of the 300,000,000 people in the US, only a small fraction live in an environment with access to rare earth magnets.

        You can buy them in any shop just around the corner ... so I don'T get your point.

  • by FatLittleMonkey ( 1341387 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @09:51AM (#38408140)

    I think this somehow makes neodymium magnets seem even cooler. They've killed children... not by poisoning them, but by magnetism alone.

  • by Cramit ( 609487 ) <> on Saturday December 17, 2011 @09:53AM (#38408148)
    33 children injured total is not a huge number. I think more children are injured by electrical outlets, knives, stoves, etc around the house each day. Parents need to watch their kids. The child in the summary would have had a lot less trouble if they had taken the kid to the doctor immediately; rather then waiting a few days. If the child is in pain they need to get the kid checked out asap. That being said there could be a warning in the box stating that swallowed magnets warrant a trip to the doctor, but I don't see why this a news fro nerd or really something that matters to most.
  • "Last spring", in this case, means April, 2007.

  • by pwizard2 ( 920421 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @09:59AM (#38408172)
    I agree that four years old is a bit young to be playing with rare earth magnets, but around the age of 6 I already knew better than to put anything like that into my mouth. Around that time I was playing in my grandpa's workshop (he used to work in refrigerator repair, and the place was full of scrap metal, scrap wood, small electric motors, MAGNETS *gasp* , hand tools, and lots of other cool stuff to play with.) Naturally, I quickly got fond of building things and tinkering with machines.

    There was dangerous stuff in there (power tools and old cans of freon that he never got rid of for some reason) but he told me never to play with that and I was smart enough to listen. When he showed me what a table saw could do to a piece of scrap wood in under 2 seconds I quickly learned that I shouldn't put my finger there. The problem today is that we're treating kids who should be old enough for this stuff like toddlers. (mostly because people have turned into litigious bastards... true, they always were but it seems like it's gotten worse in the last decade or two) As a result, kids are way behind the curve on development than they were when I was growing up because their development is being stunted. If you took a typical sheltered kid from today and moved him back in time about 20 years, he would probably be considered slow and undeveloped.
    • Today people are probably worried that if they take their kid to the ER with a minor injury and the kid says "I was playing in the workshop" they'll get done for endangering a minor.

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Too true. And I've actually seen that happen here in Ontario(canada). Government is by far overreaching, and childrens aid(and it's various equivalents across north america) are full of people who think they know best because some kid got hurt, because the kid was doing something stupid therefor the parents are 100% at fault. Never mind that they'll turn a blind eye when parents are actually threatening their kids, then murder them. See the Shafia honor killings, where the CAS actually turned a blind e

  • still swallowing things like magnets? Seems odd to me. That being said, there are also fake tongue piercing which are rare earth magnets too. Real easy to swallow and they wreak havoc inside the body as well. So I guess even as your child ages you have to constantly keep forbidding stuff.

  • Just tell your infant to only swallow one at a time. Problem solved!

  • by JoshDM ( 741866 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @10:38AM (#38408324) Homepage Journal
    The title is misleading. It makes one believe Rare Earth Magnets might pose a tactile toxic or radiative concern.

    Rename it to "Rare Earth Magnets pose threat to children who ingest them" because otherwise you are wasting my time. My kid doesn't eat magnets and I've known about this hazard for a couple years.

    This is not only OLD news, this is IRRELEVANT news to me that you misled me into re-reading.
    • Spoons Pose Threat To Children!

      iPods Pose Threat To Children!

      Diapers Pose Threat To Children!

      Meteors Pose Threat To Children!

      Internetz Pose Threat To Children!

      So many possibilities for a sensational headline. Poor Timmy, how does he choose... so poorly, so often?.

  • I have a child, he is 12 now. He NEVER had a problem swallowing stupid shit when he was young. At 6 years old he was at least competent enough to know not to swallow anything but food. When he was a bit younger yea sure that might have posed a risk but we were very attentive parents and always kept an eye on him and were very careful about what we left out. Additionally we talked to him constantly and warned him about the risk of such things, and yes believe it or not that does work. Children are smarter th
  • Typo in Headline (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Amphetam1ne ( 1042020 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @10:40AM (#38408340)
    "Rare Earth Magnets" should read "Negligent Parents".
    • by prefec2 ( 875483 )

      The headline should be: "Shit happens"

      And the message of the article is: Do not swallow more than one rare-earth magnets.

      From my point of view you should not swallow any magnet. And if your kid did swallow something you go to the hospital. And when they swallowed a meta object or a magnet, you should not use a MRT to find out where it is. But you know that, because you learned it in physics in school. And you learned in health that telling the doctor what happened might help him or her to determine the righ

    • "Rare Earth Magnets" should read "Negligent Parents".

      Also from the summary:

      "People swallow pennies of the same size every day," said Jill Eberle.

      I'm guessing the whole family is afflicted with pica [].

  • by jacks0n ( 112153 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @10:44AM (#38408356)

    Just heat the child up to above the Curie temperature of the magnets and they will fall right off!

  • Still swallowing things that are not food at age four? That kid has bigger problems coming in life!
  • Almost all items can cause injuries if a kid swallows them regularly.

  • Here is a great video [] explaining how magnets will hurt you.
  • And it's official: *everything* is bad for children. Paranoid parents are so much easier for marketers and politicians to manipulate.
  • I'm not an EE but could you degauss a Rare Earth Magnet in an MRI or other magnetic coil if it was injested?

  • Don't forget the good side of every story.

    The sideeffects will weed out wimpy teenagers that cannot take pain
    and orders fake neodynium "piercing" kits.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @02:33PM (#38409736) Homepage

    This story comes from the Magnetix recall of 2006: [] "CPSC and Mega Brands are aware of one death, one aspiration and 27 intestinal injuries. Emergency surgical intervention was needed in all but one case." The toy was a construction set of plastic parts with small embedded magnets, usable by small children. The small magnets weren't embedded very well, apparently just pressed into recesses in the plastic, and came out easily. Mega Brands paid a $1.1 million fine for this.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Saturday December 17, 2011 @04:56PM (#38411068)
    30 kids is one out of every TEN MILLION people in the U.S.

    Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that parents should not pay attention to this issue, but 30 kids a year is NOTHING. Far far more die of bathtub accidents, but you don't see people making a big deal out of bathtubs.

    It is 1,000 or more times more likely that the kid will get struck by lightning. Should you, therefore, force kids to carry around a lightning rod everywhere they go?

    This is one of those "mis-perception of risk" things that you read about. There are much more important things in this world that need your attention.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann