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Lack of Regulation Causes Increase of Children Swallowing Toy Magnets

Published on Jan 9, 2020 at 11:09 am in Product Liability.

Metallic balls forming a cube

Many small objects often have warnings like “Choking Hazard” or “Not Suitable for Children,” signaling to consumers the risk if a child were to get to the product without supervision. The Washington Post reported on one particular object that is causing injuries, deaths, and is leaving those in charge of public safety scrambling to find a solution: the rare-earth magnet.

The magnets are tiny balls that are typically desk toys—they can be something to fiddle with or make a small piece of art. However, they are also incredibly powerful and can cause a lot of harm if ingested. There has been back and forth between the manufacturers of these products and those in charge of public safety. Let’s take a closer look at this issue.

Children Are Ingesting Magnets

While the Consumer Product Safety Commission had a four-year ban on these types of magnets, a federal court lifted this ban. Since the ban has lifted, there have been about six times more cases of magnet ingestions than in 2016.

The magnet industry is trying to find new safety measures for their product to reduce injuries and deaths. They’re seeking to establish voluntary standards. However, there is concern about manufacturers getting the final say and casting suggestions from safety groups aside in favor of profit.

One of the concerns with voluntary standards is that the CPSC cannot get involved until those standards are shown to not be enough. So, if the standards fail, this means more people could be affected before more regulations can be set down.

Since the industry is mostly self-regulated, finding solutions to move forward often proves difficult. While those who are advocating for safety think that all options should be considered, those who sell the magnets don’t want to change anything that affects how adults can use and want to use the magnets.

When voting on voluntary safety standards, ASTM International is the organization that helps develop product standards. However, the committee doesn’t have a set number of voters. As people leave or join the committee, the group may have more people with ties to the industry and vote in their favor, even though manufacturers cannot officially make up more than 49% of the committee.

The manufacturers lean toward the idea that putting warnings on the packaging and labeling the product as unfit or unsafe for children is enough, but safety groups want to seek other changes to make the magnet less of an ingestion hazard.

It’s unfortunate for the discussion of safety to have to go through such a process, when swallowing these magnets can cause such devastating injuries.

The Dangers of Swallowing Magnets

When these magnets are ingested, they can become choking hazards or get lodged in the person’s digestive system. Here, they can cause intestinal injuries. Most times, emergency surgery is required. The injuries have been described as gruesome by a pediatric gastroenterologist who was part of the standards process for the magnets.

Ingestion injuries may present the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

CPSC found that small magnets that can appear in children’s toys can cause death if two are swallowed. To prevent magnet ingestion, keep all magnets out of reach of young children. Inspecting your child’s toys before allowing them to play will let you see if any magnets have become loose or dislodged. Regularly checking to make sure the children’s products have not been recalled will also keep you up to date with information on dangerous toys.

Magnets aren’t the only concern with product liability. There are other children’s products that can threaten their wellbeing.

What Other Products Can Put Children in Danger?

Crib bumpers, inclined sleepers, and furniture can all cause injuries and death if they’re defective. Suffocation is a main issue with bumpers and inclined sleepers and unsafe furniture can fall over.

These are all products that should have to undergo changes if they cannot meet safety standards, but the process can take time. When researching products for your child, make sure they haven’t been recalled and look up reviews of the product before purchasing.

If your child has been injured because of a defective product, you you may be able to seek legal action. Our lawyers in Arkansas are ready to fight for you and get the justice you deserve. The first step is to contact us and schedule a free consultation. We’ll go over your case and help you find the best way to move forward.

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