Federal Agencies, ASTM Working to Prevent Magnet Ingestion Injuries

The Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention (part of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, or NCIPC) has begun working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to prevent injuries and deaths among children who swallow parts of magnetic toys. CDC's MMWR publication highlighted the problem in a Dec. 8, 2006, issue summarizing 20 cases of magnet ingestion, and CDC says manufacturers including Rose Art Industries, Inc. and Mattel, Inc., have announced voluntary recalls of toys that include small magnets and magnetic pieces.

"Although ingestion of nonfood items is common in children, magnets pose a unique and serious health problem when multiple magnets, or a magnet and metal component, are swallowed," the agency explains. "Initial symptoms can mimic common gastrointestinal illnesses, and when small objects are detected in radiologic examinations, physicians may advise that the piece will pass normally ? both leading to delayed diagnosis and greater injury. However, these objects can attach to each other across intestinal walls, and are unlikely to separate spontaneously, causing bowel obstructions, perforations, volvulous (i.e. twisting of the bowel), and sepsis (i.e. bloodstream infection). Since 2003, CPSC identified 1 fatality and at least 19 cases requiring surgery."

CDC and CPSC also are working with the toy safety standard subcommittee at ASTM International to address the health hazards of magnetic toys.

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