CPSC recalls 4 million Magnetix toys; issues warning on magnets

Consumer Reports News: April 19, 2007 12:45 PM

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced an expanded recall of Magnetix Magnetic Building Sets, encompassing an estimated 4 million additional units. The recall follows what the CPSC is calling "additional serious injuries to children" reported since the March 2006 recall of 3.8 million Magnetix toys. That recall was prompted by the death of a toddler who swallowed magnets.

To date, the CPSC is aware of one death, one aspiration and 27 intestinal injuries. Emergency surgical intervention was needed in all but one case. At least 1,500 incidents of magnets separating from the building pieces have been reported. While the hazard was previously thought to be a problem for children younger than 6, at least 10 injuries involved children between the ages of 6 and 11.

The recall covers all Magnetix sets except newer sets sold since March 31, 2006 that are age-labeled 6+ and contain the following caution label:

CAUTION:  Do not ingest or inhale magnets. 
Attraction of magnets in the body may cause
serious injury and require immediate medical care.

CPSC spokeswoman Julie Vallese points out that the newer Magnetix products have also been redesigned. "There's a clear design change, where there is a much more prominent lip over the magnet," she says. Consumers should stop using the recalled magnetic sets immediately and contact Mega Brands for a replacement toy.  If consumers are uncertain as to whether their product is being recalled, they can contact Mega Brands at (800) 779-7122 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site.

The CPSC is urging consumers to immediately report any incidents of loose magnets to the CPSC Hotline at (800) 638-2772 or to the CPSC Web site.

Additionally, the CPSC has issued a safety alert about the serious dangers magnets pose to children. As the agency points out, "small magnets can kill children if two or more are swallowed.  If two or more magnets or magnetic components or a magnet and another metal object (such as a small metal ball) are swallowed separately, they can attract one another through intestinal walls.  This traps the magnets in place and can cause holes (perforations), twisting and/or blockage of the intestines, infection, blood poisoning (sepsis), and death. When multiple magnets are ingested surgery is required to remove the magnets and sometimes sections of the intestines need to be removed."

The Magnetix sets aren't the only such toys that have been recalled. Late last year, the CPSC recalled 2.4 million Polly Pocket play sets containing magnets. And earlier this year, MagneBlocks Magnetic Construction Toys were recalled after it was determined that magnetic pieces of the toys could fall out.

As part of its safety alert, the CPSC issued the following guidelines for parents:

  • Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect your child may have swallowed a magnet. 
  • Look for non-specific abdominal symptoms - abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, etc. 
  • Note that objects in x-rays may appear as a single object that could actually be multiple magnetic pieces separated by trapped intestinal walls. 
  • Keep small magnets and small pieces containing magnets away from young children who might mistakenly, or intentionally, swallow them. 
  • Look out for loose magnetic pieces; regularly inspect toys and children’s play areas for missing or dislodged magnets. 
  • Check www.cpsc.gov to make sure your children’s magnetic toys are not recalled products.

Many magnets, such as those used on refrigerators and bulletin boards are colorful and don't contain warning labels. We recommend keeping all magnets and magnet-containing toys and other products away from small children.

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