Kids’ ER visits for swallowing magnets up nearly 400%

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Child Loses Part of Colon, Intestines After Swallowing Magnets from Toy

Visits declined until ban on magnets was overturned and they went back on market

The saying “kids will put anything in their mouths” is a saying for a reason.

That’s one of the reasons the Consumer Product Safety Commission halted the sale of high-powered magnet sets and ordered a recall of them in 2012.

ExploreChild ingests magnets from toy, loses part of colon, intestines

If a child swallows a single magnet, it can become lodged in the throat, lungs or esophagus, causing choking, difficulty breathing or damage to the area.

“A much greater danger exists when a magnet is swallowed along with another magnet or piece of metal,” according to the American College of Medical Toxicology. “When two or more such objects are swallowed, the magnetic attraction can pin the bowel walls together leading to a blockage or tearing of the bowel that is potentially deadly. In 2006, the CDC issued a warning regarding this unique hazard and recommended that children under age 6 should not have access to these items.”

The safety commission introduced a rule that basically banned the sale of these magnets, but it was overturned by an appeals court in December 2016.

Since then, calls to U.S. poison control centers about kids and magnets increased more than 400%, a recent study out of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio found.

“Regulations on these products were effective, and the dramatic increase in the number of high-powered magnet-related injuries since the ban was lifted — even compared to pre-ban numbers — is alarming,” Dr. Leah Middelberg, lead author of the study and emergency medicine physician at Nationwide, told U.S. News & World Report.

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The researchers analyzed the National Poison Data System from 2008 through October 2019 for kids younger than 19 with magnet “exposure,” which poison centers define as ingestion, inhalation, injection or dermal exposure to a poison.

Between 2012 and 2017, calls to poison control centers fell 33% because of the ban. After the ban was lifted, however, they rose 444%, the researchers found. There was also a 355% increase in cases that required the child to be hospitalized.

The scientists found 5,738 magnet exposures, nearly 55% of which were boys and 62% younger than age 6.

The Ohio study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.