In an effort to reduce the risk of children and teens experiencing serious, even life-threatening injuries from swallowing dangerous, small high-powered magnets, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted to approve a new federal safety standard for magnets on September 7, 2022.
When high-powered magnets are swallowed, they can attract to each other, or to other material that attracts to magnets, through internal body tissue. This can result in perforations, twisting and/or blockage of the intestines, infection, blood poisoning and death. These injuries can occur when children and teens access and ingest the magnets, including, for example, when teens use the magnets to mimic mouth piercings and swallow them inadvertently.
The new mandatory federal standard requires loose or separable magnets in certain magnet products to be either too large to swallow, or weak enough to reduce the risk of internal injuries when swallowed; specifically, if the magnets fit in a small parts cylinder, then they must have a flux index of less than 50 kG2 mm2.
In 2014, CPSC established a mandatory federal standard for magnet sets, which have been the most concerning subset of the products subject to the new standard. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit overturned the mandatory standard in 2016. After the court’s ruling allowed the continued sale of magnet sets, magnet ingestions and injuries rose.
CPSC estimates 26,600 magnet ingestions were treated in hospital ERs from 2010 through 2021, and cases have been rising annually since 2018. CPSC is aware of seven deaths involving the ingestion of hazardous magnets (including two outside of the United States), the majority of these incidents likely involved magnet sets.
The new rule applies to consumer products that are designed, marketed, or intended to be used for entertainment, jewelry (including children’s jewelry), mental stimulation, stress relief, or a combination of these purposes, and that contains one or more loose or separable magnets. It does not include products sold and/or distributed solely to school educators, researchers, professionals, and/or commercial or industrial users exclusively for educational, research, professional, commercial, and/or industrial purposes.
The new rule does not apply to toys for children under 14 years old, because the CPSC’s mandatory toy standard (16 CFR part 1250) already covers such products.
The products subject to the rule present an unreasonable risk of injury, and less stringent measures, such as safety messaging, have historically been ineffective in attempting to persuade children, teens and caregivers to avoid the hazard.
The Commission voted 5 to 0 to approve the mandatory standard. The rule goes into effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register for magnet products manufactured after that date.
NOTE: CPSC urges anyone who may own these magnets and magnet sets to discard them to protect children who may come into contact with them and unintentionally ingest them.