-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Oct. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Warning labels do little to
prevent children from swallowing high-powered magnets that can tear
holes in the stomach and bowel and cause severe, life-threatening
complications, a new study found.
It found that there have been at least 480 cases of infants,
children and teens in the United States who swallowed high-powered
magnets in the past 10 years. Of those cases, 80 percent of the
patients required surgery or an endoscopic procedure.
The majority (51 percent) of magnet ingestions occurred in
children aged 1 to 6, although cases also occurred among older
children and teens, who use the magnets to mimic lip, nose and
The findings are from more than 350 pediatric
gastroenterologists who responded to a August survey distributed by
the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology,
Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN).
High-powered magnet sets were introduced as a consumer product
in 2008 and generally marketed as adult desk toys. They are
commonly sold in sets of 100 or more balls that are about 3 to 6
millimeters in size.
The magnet sets were initially labeled for use by people aged 13
and older, but since 2010 have been labeled for use by people age
14 and older. Most of the sets include warnings to keep the product
away from children.
However, this survey showed that ingestion of high-powered
magnets by children and resulting injuries continue despite warning
If a child swallows more than one of these magnets, the magnets
will attempt to connect with each other inside the body. In doing
so, the magnets can tear holes in the stomach and bowel.
"Ingesting two or more of these super-strength magnets is unlike swallowing a marble or other small foreign body," Dr. Athos Bousvaros, NASPGHAN president, said in a society news release.
"Damage from these magnets begins soon after ingestion. When the intestinal wall separates two or more magnets that attract each other, holes in the bowel can occur. Time is of the essence with a high-powered magnet ingestion. Yet, bowel damage can be difficult to diagnose, especially in toddlers who can't convey they have swallowed magnets," Bousvaros said.
The findings were presented at a news conference on Tuesday.
A child-injury prevention specialist is working to eliminate the
"As the Consumer Product Safety Commission pushes toward a ban of these high powered magnets, we should realize the magnitude of this push," said Jennifer Hoekstra, the Safe Kids Program Coordinator at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich.
"This aggressive movement highlights the danger that these small powerful magnets bring into our homes," Hoekstra said. "These magnets are not intended to be where children can access them, and the warning labels do not seem to be enough. If parents have these small, powerful magnetic items in the home, they should be kept out of reach of children -- or better yet, locked up with the poisons."
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has more about the
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