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Health Canada Examining Risks Posed by Powerful Magnetic Beads Sold As Novelty Products

Starting date:
August 14, 2012
Posting date:
August 14, 2012
Type of communication:
Advisory
Subcategory:
Toys
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Issue:
Product Safety
Audience:
General Public
Identification number:
RA-15046

The issue

Small powerful magnetic beads sold as novelty products for adults, and small toys containing powerful magnets, pose a recognized health hazard to children of all ages.  There have been many cases of children requiring emergency surgical treatment to remove swallowed magnets and/or magnetic toy pieces from their intestines.  If a child swallows more than one powerful magnet over a short period of time, the magnets can attract one another while travelling through the body. When this happens, the magnets can twist the intestines and create a blockage or they can slowly tear through the intestinal walls.  The results can be very serious and even fatal.

Who is affected

Health Canada is reminding the public to keep any product with small, loose powerful magnets out of the hands of children of all ages.  Retailers are also reminded of the dangers these products may pose to their customers.

Health Canada has previously alerted parents and caregivers regarding the hazards that small magnets can pose to children, most recently in a 2008 advisory: Health Canada Reminds Canadians of the Dangers of Small Magnets.

What consumers should do

  • Keep products with small powerful magnets out of the reach of children of any age.
  • Teach children of all ages that small powerful magnets, and small items containing magnets, should never be placed in their mouth.
  • Seek immediate medical care for any child who has swallowed, or is suspected of having swallowed, one or more magnets.
  • Check around the home and other areas for small powerful magnets that may have detached from products and keep them safely out of reach of children.
  • Read and follow the age recommendations, warnings, safety messages and assembly instructions for products with small powerful magnets.
  • Store toys and games for adults safely out of the reach of children.

What Health Canada is doing

Currently, Health Canada's Product Safety Inspectors across the country are visiting toy stores and other retailers selling children's products, gathering information on the variety of powerful magnetic products being sold and how they are being marketed. This information will be used in the Department's assessment of the health risks posed by powerful magnetic beads sold as novelty products. As part of regular compliance and enforcement activities, Product Safety Inspectors will also remind retailers of the requirements set out in the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act and to verify compliance with the Act.

Background

Recently, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requested that U.S. companies stop the manufacture, import, distribution and sale of sets of small, powerful, individual magnets following a number of incidents in the United States. These products, consisting of hundreds of tiny magnetic beads, are often marketed to adults for stress relief and entertainment, but may pose a serious health risk to children.

Health Canada is aware of two serious incidents in Canada involving children swallowing powerful magnetic beads sold as novelty products. The Department is also aware of numerous reports in other jurisdictions of children ingesting or inhaling them. Emergency surgical treatment is often required in these cases to remove the magnetic beads. The majority of cases involve older children and teenagers. It is known that they use these magnetic beads on braces or to mimic tongue, lip or cheek piercings, which can result in accidental swallowing.

How to report problems with consumer products

Health Canada would like to remind Canadians to report any health or safety incidents related to the use of a consumer product or cosmetic. An easy-to-use incident report form is now available on the Department's Web site.

E-mail: CPSR-RSPC@hc-sc.gc.ca
Mail: Incident Report - Consumer Product Safety Directorate
Health Canada
123 Slater Street
Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1A 0K9


Media enquiries

Health Canada
613-957-2983

Public enquiries

613-957-2991
1-866-225-0709

For more information

To alert parents and caregivers of the serious hazards associated with small powerful magnets, Health Canada has issued a number of consumer advisories: