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Health Dangers of Small Powerful Magnets

  • Published: 2013-05-24 (Revised/Updated 2015-11-18) : Author: Health Canada
  • Synopsis: Recall of novelty magnet sets marketed to adults that contain small powerful magnets which can be easily swallowed or inhaled by children.

Main Document

"When more than one powerful magnet is swallowed in a short period of time, the magnets can attract one another while moving through the intestines."

Harper Government Takes Action to have Dangerous Small, Powerful Magnets Removed from the Marketplace.

Health Canada has published a recall related to a number of novelty magnet sets marketed to adults that contain small, powerful magnets which can be easily swallowed or inhaled by children. The department also issued an Advisory to warn Canadians about the dangers of these and other magnets.

"Canadians expect that products they find on store shelves will be safe," said the Honorable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health. "It's clear that some products containing small, powerful magnets pose a danger to children so we are taking action to have them removed from the marketplace."

In Canada, the United States and other countries, there have been a number of cases of children requiring emergency surgical treatment to remove swallowed magnets from their intestines. When more than one powerful magnet is swallowed in a short period of time, the magnets can attract one another while moving through the intestines. This can cause the intestines to twist, creating blockages or tearing of the intestinal walls which can be very serious and life-threatening. For survivors, there can be serious lifelong health problems.

Health Canada is particularly concerned about novelty magnet sets containing more than one small, powerful magnet, regardless of the intended age of the user.

These sets are usually intended for use as a toy or manipulative for general entertainment, such as puzzle working, sculpture building, mental stimulation or stress relief. These sets generally consist of a number of rare earth element magnetic pieces in spherical, cube and/or cuboid shapes. Rare earth element magnets are many times more powerful than traditional magnets and pose unique dangers.

Departmental officials have gathered information on novelty magnet sets from a range of sources, including hospital data, incident reports and scientific literature. This information supported a risk assessment that was completed recently, and informed the Department's actions on these products.

Health Canada will continue to take action to have dangerous products removed from the marketplace.

The Department continues to remind Canadians to keep products with small, powerful magnets out of the reach of children of any age and to follow these safety tips:

For more information on the danger of swallowing magnets, please see Health Canada's Facts for Hazards of Ingesting Small Magnets at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/cons/magnets_danger-aimant-eng.php

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