Magnets in children's toys

A wide variety of toys and novelties may contain small powerful magnets that are dangerous to children if they are accidentally swallowed or inhaled. Many children have suffered serious infections and internal injuries as a result of accidental ingestion. If more than one magnet is ingested it can cause perforations or problems with the bowel as the magnets can stick together across the lining of the stomach and intestines. Surgery is needed as well as long-term ongoing treatment.

A nine-year-old boy swallowed magnets from his building set and had to undergo four hours of surgery to have the magnets removed after they caused perforation and twisting of his intestines, blockage of his bowel and internal bleeding. He was still having treatment four months later.

In many cases, parents have no idea their child has swallowed magnets. Children also often do not remember swallowing magnets and this can lead to significant delays in getting children to hospital. The signs you should look out for include flu-like symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach pain. If you suspect your child may have swallowed or inhaled a magnet, take them to a hospital immediately.

Safety tips

Buy toys from a reputable retail store. Toys, games, puzzles, construction or modeling kits, and jewellery worn around the mouth and nose, must not contain any small, high-powered magnets. Other toys containing magnets must meet mandatory standards.

If you choose toys that contain magnets, or magnetic parts make sure:

  • the toy is well made and will not break easily, allowing the magnets to escape
  • the magnets are well concealed within the toy (so small children cannot suck on them)
  • the magnets cannot come loose easily.

Safety tips for toys containing magnets:

  • make a note of all the toys you have at home that contain magnets
  • check these toys regularly to make sure the magnets have not come loose
  • don’t leave toys with magnets in the reach of very small children
  • check the toy box regularly and remove any stray magnets that may have fallen out of the toys
  • watch out for children sucking on toys that contain magnets.

If you become aware of an unsafe situation or item, whether or not anyone has been injured, you should alert the supplier about the issue. You can also report it by lodging a complaint on our website or via the Product Safety Australia website.

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