5 On Your Side

Two years after ban, tiny magnet toys are back on market

Posted 10:47 a.m. Friday
Updated 11:03 a.m. Friday

Two years after the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the sale of toys composed of tiny, powerful magnets, a manufacturer has successfully won the right to return them to shelves.

The toys are made up of ball-bearing sized magnets which stick together and let the user mold them into different shapes.

The problem, and the potential danger to young children, is that the magnets, if swallowed, can cause life-threatening injuries. The magnets are extremely powerful, up to 30 times stronger than refrigerator magnets.

Braylon Jordan wasn't even 2 years old when he swallowed eight tiny magnets and ended up in the emergency room. The magnets' powerful force perforated his intestine. Most had to be surgically removed.

Braylon still gets nearly all of his nutrition intravenously. He was just one of thousands injured before the magnets were banned.

Dr. Adam Noel, one of Braylon’s doctors, says in his experience the ban dramatically lowered the number of magnetic ball injuries. “We see the injuries very rare right now, maybe one or two cases a year,” he said.

Zen Magnets filed a petition, and recently a panel of Federal judges voted 2-to-1 to rescind the ban. That means the magnets can legally be sold again. Consumer Reports warns they can still be dangerous.

“These magnets are so strong that if they are swallowed, they can pull together with enough force to punch holes along different sections of the digestive system,” said Ellen Kunes, Consumer Reports' health editor.

The founder of Zen Magnets maintains they are “perfectly safe when properly used.” There are also warnings about possible injuries on the website and in the packaging.

Consumer Reports urges parents to use extreme caution.

“We recommend that you avoid having these magnet sets if there are any children in the home,” Kunes said.

Braylon is a happy first grader now, but he has serious medical issues he’ll have to deal with for the rest of his life.

In lifting the ban, the judges basically said the CPSC overstated the dangers of the magnetic balls and overlooked the benefits. Many teachers and researchers say they use the magnets to teach and explain math and science concepts.

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