Information for Manufacturers, Importers, Distributors and Retailers of Products Containing Small, Powerful Magnets

The purpose of this notice is to inform you that Health Canada has determined that some products containing smallFootnote 1, powerfulFootnote 2 magnets are a danger to children and is now taking steps to remove these products from the marketplace. These products include some novelty magnet sets, as well as toys that do not meet international safety standards regarding the use of small, powerful magnets. The manufacturing, import, sale or advertising of these products is a violation of the general prohibition under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA).

Health Canada is particularly concerned about novelty magnet sets containing more than one small, powerful magnet, regardless of the intended age of the user, where the set is intended for use as a toy or manipulative for general entertainment, such as puzzle working, sculpture building, mental stimulation or stress relief. The magnet sets of concern generally consist of hundreds of small (various sizes, but commonly 5 mm in diameter) powerful rare earth element magnetic pieces in spherical, cube and/or cuboid shapes.

Health Canada is equally concerned about some children's toys that contain small, powerful magnets or magnetic components. Similar actions to remove dangerous magnet sets and toys with small, powerful magnets from the market have been undertaken in the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Health Canada's position is that toys on the Canadian marketplace should conform to at least one of the latest versions of internationally respected safety standards (for example, ASTM F963, EN 71-1, ISO 8124-1) with respect to magnets or magnetic components. This position is in line with the direction which has been provided to industry regarding magnets and magnetic components in toys (see page 15 of Health Canada's Industry Guide to Health Canada's Safety Requirements for Children's Toys and Related Products, 2012).

Action for industry

Health Canada has determined that some products pose a danger to human health or safety. Industry should immediately stop the manufacturing, import, sale or advertising of these products, any of which is a violation of the general prohibition set out in paragraphs 7(a) and 8(a) of the CCPSA.

Key considerations that are used to determine whether these paragraphs apply to the supply or advertising of a product are as follows:

  • the product is a consumer product within the meaning of the CCPSA
  • the hazard posed by the product is unreasonable
  • the hazard is posed in, or as a result of, the product's normal or foreseeable use
  • the hazard may reasonably be expected to have an acute or chronic adverse effect on health, including an injury or death

What is Health Canada doing?

Since 2006, Health Canada has issued several advisories to warn Canadians of the dangers associated with ingesting magnets. Despite these warnings and some manufacturers efforts to keep these products out of the hands of children, which have included package warnings, instructions on safe use and guidance to retailers on safe selling practises, these magnets are accessed and used by children, and incidents continue to occur.

Health Canada is now taking action to identify dangerous products and have them removed from the marketplace. Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers are being asked to cease their activities related to these products immediately.

Description of the danger

Magnets that are very small can be easily swallowed or inhaled. Unlike other small objects that would be more likely to pass normally through the digestive system if swallowed, when more than one powerful magnet is swallowed, the magnets can attract one another while travelling through the digestive system. The magnets can then pinch together and create a blockage and slowly tear through the intestinal walls, causing perforations.

The result of swallowing powerful magnets can be very serious and even fatal. Swallowing incidents have resulted in considerable damage to the gastrointestinal tissues and required emergency surgical treatment. There can also be serious long-term health consequences.

A further concern regarding this unique hazard is that swallowing small magnets may happen with no signs of physical distress or discomfort being shown for many days. The non-specific symptoms that eventually develop may include vomiting, diarrhea and flu-like abdominal pain. Because of the similarity of these symptoms to the stomach flu, parents may not seek medical attention until severe trauma has developed. Additionally, medical practitioners may not recognize ingested foreign bodies as magnets and may not initially treat patients with the urgency warranted.

Children and teens have unintentionally swallowed the magnets when they played with them in foreseeable ways, such as: using the magnets to mimic a tongue, lip or nose piercing; attaching them to braces; mistaking the magnets for candy; or simply in general exploratory play.

Other Information

If you require additional information regarding this notice, please contact the Consumer Product Safety Directorate by email or by telephone at 1-866-662-0666.

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