On December 7, 2006, the U.S. government reported at least one child has died and 19 others have needed surgery since 2003 after swallowing magnets used in toys. Researchers have found that most of those cases involved tiny (but strong) magnets that became linked together in the children’s digestive tracts, squeezing the intestines and in some cases even causing perforation. Jonathan Midgett, the study’s lead author said the magnets have become common in the U.S. toy market in the past five years because they have become cheaper to produce. They are used in building sets, action figures and dolls.
Lawsuits generated due to product liability spurred Mega Brands Inc. to recall 3.8 million Magnetix building sets. The company also agreed to add warning labels to their product. Magnetix agreed to pay $13.5 million to settle the lawsuits. Mattel Inc. recalled more than 4 million Polly Pocket play sets, dolls with small magnets in their hands, feet, clothing and other accessories.
Federal and industry officials hope to have a warning label ready within six months for toys containing magnets.