Dangerous magnets banned after child death and injuries

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The WA Government has placed a product safety ban on magnetised novelty items which have killed a young child and recently caused injuries to several other children in Australia. Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien approved the ban today.

In WA, Princess Margaret Hospital reports there have been 33 cases of children swallowing magnets since 2006 and four were admitted to hospital for treatment. In April 2012, a two year old boy underwent emergency surgery to remove 27 small magnets from his stomach.

Sold under various names including BuckyBalls, Neocubes and Neodymium Sphere Magnets, the small metal balls, with diameters of 4-5 millimetres, pose a danger to children if swallowed.

The ban relates to strong magnets of less than one centimetre in size that could be ingested by a child. Magnets used for industrial or scientific purposes are exempt.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll said the ban means that these dangerous items must be removed from the shelves of retail stores and cannot be sold to any Australian consumers.

“Although these small high-powered magnets are marketed to adults, they pose a real danger if swallowed by children,” Ms Driscoll said.

“If more than one of the balls are swallowed, they can attract to each other across the intestinal wall and perforate the intestine, which can be fatal. Emergency surgery is generally required in these circumstances.”

Late last year in Queensland, an 18 month old child died after ingesting 12 small magnets. In May this year, a three year old boy in Sydney swallowed four magnet balls and underwent surgery for a perforated oesophagus and, in June, a seven year old boy in Sydney underwent surgery after swallowing the magnets. There have since been two further reports of 12 year old children from Sydney and Melbourne suffering severe injuries.

“These novelty magnets have been on sale in WA for some time and we would urge any parent or guardian to ensure that toys or novelty items containing magnets are kept out of reach of young children. If a child has swallowed a magnet, urgent medical assistance should be sought,” the Commissioner said.

“The Minister has today approved an immediate interim ban on these products pending a permanent ban being put in place that will apply nationally. While a ban on magnets in children’s toys has been in place for some time, this ban will relate to these items used by adults but could potentially be swallowed by children.”

More information on product safety is available at www.productsafety.gov.au or inquiries can be made by calling Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 or email productsafety@commerce.wa.gov.au .

 

END OF RELEASE

 

NOTE: Photographs of the magnet balls are available upon request

(Consumer Protection is a division of the Department of Commerce)

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Media Contact:

Alan Hynd  9282 0961 or 0429-078791  alan.hynd@commerce.wa.gov.au

Consumer Protection
Media release
23 Aug 2012

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