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Archive – Health Canada Warns Parents and Caregivers to Keep Small Magnets Out of Reach of Young Children

Starting date:
June 5, 2006
Posting date:
June 5, 2006
Type of communication:
Advisory
Subcategory:
Miscellaneous
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Issue:
Important Safety Information, Physical Hazard
Audience:
General Public
Identification number:
RA-110001288

Health Canada is alerting parents and caregivers of the hazards small, loose magnets pose to young children. A wide range of children's products such as magnetic building toys, alphabet and number magnets, science or craft kits, board games, vehicle sets, even plush toys, may contain small magnets. In addition, small magnets attached to other items, such as magnetic jewellery and fridge magnets, pose a potential problem if they become disengaged from the item.

This advisory is prompted by the recent death of a 20-month old child in the United States as well as three other US reports of multiple magnet ingestion incidents and one multiple magnet inhalation incident. These serious incidents required surgical intervention and involved children aged three to eight years.

Health Canada is not aware of any deaths of children in Canada related to magnet ingestion or inhalation. Over an eleven year period, however, from 1993 to 2003, incident details have been recorded for 93 cases of magnet ingestion and 3 cases of magnet inhalation involving children under 14 years. While the majority of cases, 57%, involved children under three years of age, who tend to put things in their mouths, the hazard may also be relevant for older children who still mouth objects.

In addition to the choking hazard presented by small magnets, if a child ingests more than one magnet over a short period of time and these pass beyond the stomach, the magnets can then attract one another while travelling through the intestines. When this happens the intestines can become blocked, and the magnets can slowly tear through the intestinal walls. The results can be very serious and even fatal. Magnetic building toys may be particularly dangerous because the magnetic pieces are often small and the magnets are very strong.

Below are tips to avoid such incidents:

  • Keep products with small magnets out of the reach of young children. Also, look for any small magnets that may have been separated from toys and other products and immediately remove the magnets from the reach of young children.
  • Seek immediate medical care for any child who has swallowed, or is suspected of having swallowed, one or more magnets.
  • Follow the safety warnings and manufacturer's age recommendations on children's toys, and keep toys intended for older children out of the reach of younger children.
  • Children under three years of age frequently mouth objects—small toys, small balls or small loose toy parts are dangerous choking, ingestion and inhalation hazards to children at this vulnerable stage—they must be kept out of reach. Similarly, keep small household items such as coins, magnets, batteries, pen caps, paper clips and jewellery out of the reach of young children. Know how your child plays—this guidance can apply to some older children who may still frequently mouth objects.

For more tips on choosing and using toys safely, visit Health Canada's Toy Safety Tips web page.

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