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Archived – Health Canada advises parents and caregivers about the hazards of ingesting small magnets

Starting date:
November 22, 2006
Posting date:
November 22, 2006
Type of communication:
Advisory
Subcategory:
Children's Products, Toys, Affects children, pregnant or breast feeding women
Source of recall:
Health Canada
Issue:
Physical Hazard, Product Safety
Audience:
General Public
Identification number:
RA-11000976

Health Canada is again alerting parents and caregivers of the hazards that small magnets can pose to children. Recent toy recalls have been issued as the result of serious multiple magnet ingestion incidents for children in the United States, including the death of a 20-month-old child. The incidents demonstrate the serious nature of the hazard, which reports show as relevant to older children as well.

If a child swallows more than one magnet over a short period of time, the magnets can attract one another while travelling through the intestines. When this happens, the magnets can slowly tear through the intestinal walls. The results can be very serious and even fatal. The tiny magnets that are being used more frequently today in toys, novelty jewellery items, and other household items are particularly dangerous because the magnets can be very strong.

While Health Canada is not aware of any deaths of children in Canada from ingesting magnets, there have been 96 recorded cases of such incidents since 1993. While the majority of cases involved children under three years of age, who tend to put things in their mouths, numerous other incidents involved children up to the age of 14, showing that the hazard also applies to older children. This observation parallels recent incident reports from the United States.

As the holiday gift-giving season approaches, Health Canada reminds parents and caregivers that a wide range of children's products such as building toys, dolls and action figures, alphabet and number magnets, science and craft kits, board games, vehicle sets, etc. may contain small magnets. In addition, small magnets attached to magnetic jewellery and other household items, such as fridge magnets may pose a hazard if the item is small or if a small magnet can be detached from it. Health Canada urges parents and caregivers to take appropriate steps to avoid incidents with such products:

  • Teach children that small magnets or small items with attached magnets should never be placed in their mouth.
  • 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 information on toy recalls, visit the Health Canada Juvenile Product Recalls page. For further tips on choosing and using toys safely, visit Health Canada's Toy Safety Tips web page

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