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Vincent Iannelli, M.D.

Buckyballs - Another Magnet Safety Warning

By March 6, 2012

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Magnet Safety Alert - Photo courtesy of the CPSCJust about every newspaper and news website has a story about the 3-year-old girl in Oregon who swallowed 37 buckyballs, the small magnetic balls that allow you to build a variety of sculptures and shapes.

Billed as a desktop toy for adults, they have a lot of appeal for kids too.

Unfortunately, when kids swallow more than one of the small, 5mm magnets, they can attract each other through the walls of the child's intestine. And this is what happened to the little girl who swallowed 37 buckyballs. She required emergency surgery to repair perforations in her stomach and intestines.

Although her mother said that "If we had any idea what those magnets could have done to our daughter's intestines I would have never had them in our house," there have been repeated warnings about these types of magnets over the years. The first warning from the Consumer Product Safety Commission came in 2007 following at least 33 cases of children swallowing loose magnets and requiring emergency surgery, and the death of a 20-month-old boy in Seattle, Washington.

The CPSC issued another magnet safety alert last November when they found that incidents of children ingesting these magnets were increasing each year, with reports of 22 incidents since 2009, 11 of which required surgical removal of the magnets.

Spread the word - small magnets are dangerous and should be kept away from young children who might swallow them. In fact, the CPSC warns that high powered magnet sets, like BuckyBalls, should be kept away from children under age 14 years.

But also remember that you don't have to wait for a tragedy in the news to think about keeping your kids safe. Learn about childproofing, basic child safety, and avoiding hidden dangers.

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