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Research Letter
November 24, 2020

Pediatric Magnet Ingestions After Federal Rule Changes, 2009-2019

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, MassGeneral Hospital for Children, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Department of Surgery, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Department of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • 4Division of Emergency Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2020;324(20):2102-2104. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.19153

Magnet ingestions among children have become a serious health risk after the 2009 introduction of high-powered, rare-earth magnets, commercially sold as small (3- to 6-mm) recreational objects.1,2 These neodymium magnets are 5 to 10 times more powerful than traditional ferrite magnets and are sold as sets for entertainment and toys (eg, Bucky Balls building sets, jewelry kits, spinning toys).3 Ingestion of multiple magnets, or a magnet with a metal object, can result in bowel obstruction, perforation, and death when magnets attach through bowel walls.4 After reports of pediatric injuries and deaths related to ingested neodymium magnets, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) initiated campaigns to limit sales in 2012 with voluntary recalls and safety standards.5 Other CPSC efforts included awareness campaigns, legislative advocacy, and lawsuits.1 In October 2014, the CPSC published its final rule, Safety Standard for Magnet Sets, prohibiting sales of these small high-powered magnet sets.3 In November 2016, this rule was legally remanded by the US Court of Appeals 10th Circuit after being challenged by Zen Magnets LLC, resulting in a resurgence of these magnets on the market.6 This study examined trends in US emergency department (ED) visits for pediatric magnet ingestions over the period of the changes in federal regulations.