September 15, 2008
For immediate release
OTTAWA - Health Canada is again advising the public of the danger posed by small powerful magnets to children who can swallow them.
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, and block or twist the intestines, and result in serious, possibly fatal, injuries.
Small, powerful magnets are used more frequently today in toys, novelty jewellery items, and other household items and are particularly dangerous. During 2006-2007, several high-profile, wide-scale toy recalls were conducted by toy manufacturers because of this type of magnet separating from toys, resulting in incidents involving children in the United States. Recently, a five-year-old child in British Columbia required emergency surgery to remove two magnetic toy parts that she had swallowed. Additionally, in the United States, as of April 2007, 33 cases of emergency surgery due to swallowed magnets had been reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The incidents demonstrate the serious nature of the hazard as well as the fact that older children are also putting the magnets or magnetic toy pieces in their mouths. If powerful magnets are swallowed, there is risk of serious injury, regardless of the age of the child.
The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that magnetic toys be kept out of environments where children under six years of age are playing, and Health Canada continues to enhance toy safety, to provide greater protection to children from the ingestion and inhalation hazards associated with small powerful magnets.
Health Canada urges parents and caregivers to take appropriate steps to avoid incidents with such products:
- Teach children of all ages that small magnets or small items that contain magnets should never be placed in their mouth. Carefully supervise children around products containing magnets.
- Keep products with small magnets out of the reach of children under six years of age, and older children who still put non-food items in their mouths.
- Seek immediate medical care for any child who has swallowed, or is suspected of having swallowed, one or more magnets.
- Check products often to make sure they are in good condition. Look for magnets that may have detached from toys or other products and immediately remove the magnets from the reach of children under six years of age, and older children who still put non-food items in their mouths.
- Follow the safety warnings and manufacturer's age recommendations on children's toys. Keep toys intended for older children out of the reach of younger children.
- Check for any Canadian toy recalls involving small magnets by visiting the Health Canada Consumer Product Recall Web site and entering "toy" and "magnet" as search terms. Take appropriate action for any recalled toys you have in your home.
For more information on the danger of swallowing magnets, please see the Health Canada Facts for Hazards of Ingesting Small Magnets.
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