Health Canada warns parents
and caregivers to keep small magnets out of reach
of young children
June 8, 2006
Health Canada is alerting
parents and caregivers of the hazards small,
loose magnets pose to young children. A wide range
of children's products such as magnetic building
toys, alphabet and number magnets, science or
craft kits, board games, vehicle sets, even plush
toys, may contain small magnets. In addition,
small magnets attached to other items, such as
magnetic jewellery and fridge magnets, pose a
potential problem if they become disengaged from
This advisory is prompted by the
recent death of a 20-month old child in the United
States as well as three other US reports of multiple
magnet ingestion incidents and one multiple magnet
inhalation incident. These serious incidents required
surgical intervention and involved children aged
three to eight years.
Health Canada is not aware of any
deaths of children in Canada related to magnet
ingestion or inhalation. Over an eleven year period,
however, from 1993 to 2003, incident details have
been recorded for 93 cases of magnet ingestion
and 3 cases of magnet inhalation involving children
under 14 years. While the majority of cases, 57%,
involved children under three years of age, who
tend to put things in their mouths, the hazard
may also be relevant for older children who still
In addition to the choking hazard
presented by small magnets, if a child ingests
more than one magnet over a short period of time
and these pass beyond the stomach, the magnets
can then attract one another while travelling
through the intestines. When this happens the
intestines can become blocked, and the magnets
can slowly tear through the intestinal walls.
The results can be very serious and even fatal.
Magnetic building toys may be particularly dangerous
because the magnetic pieces are often small and
the magnets are very strong.
Below are tips to avoid such incidents:
- Keep products with small magnets
out of the reach of young children. Also, look
for any small magnets that may have been separated
from toys and other products and immediately
remove the magnets from the reach of young children.
- Seek immediate medical care
for any child who has swallowed, or is suspected
of having swallowed, one or more magnets.
- Follow the safety warnings and
manufacturer's age recommendations on children's
toys, and keep toys intended for older children
out of the reach of younger children.
- Children under three years of
age frequently mouth objects -- small toys,
small balls or small loose toy parts are dangerous
choking, ingestion and inhalation hazards to
children at this vulnerable stage -- they must
be kept out of reach. Similarly, keep small
household items such as coins, magnets, batteries,
pen caps, paper clips and jewellery out of the
reach of young children. Know how your child
plays -- this guidance can apply to some older
children who may still frequently mouth objects.
For more tips on choosing and using
toys safely, visit Health
Canada's Toy Safety Tips web page.