"The damage they did is absolutely unreal. They burned holes in the intestines. Whenever they opened him up some of his intestines already leaked out." Mother of a three-year-old boy

[Photo credit: Dangerous counterfeit toy, purchased from an online marketplace by the British Toy and Hobby Association]

Safety alerts have been issued amid growing concerns of the dangers posed to children by super strong magnets.

The small round magnets have been linked to rising numbers of serious injuries as, if swallowed, they can stick together and effectively rip holes in a child’s gut.

Products from overseas sellers on online marketplaces pose particular risks, as they may not follow UK safety standards on safe levels of magnetic strength.

The safety alerts will help address the problem and improve awareness and treatment.

Product safety

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), the UK’s national product safety regulator, has reminded business and online platforms that they must identify and remove products containing small magnets from the market if they breach safety requirements.

Businesses and retail platforms must also ensure that clear warnings are included with any products containing magnets, where there is a risk of a child swallowing them.

OPSS is working with local authority trading standards to take action against any products with unsafe magnets that could be swallowed by a child.

Patient safety

NHS England and the NHS Improvement National Patient Safety Team have issued a joint National Patient Safety Alert. This highlights the dangers posed by super strong magnets and the need for urgent assessment and treatment if a child has swallowed them.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has also issued best practice guidance on the treatment of children who have swallowed super strong magnets.

Disturbing trend

Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust, said:

“We’ve seen a disturbing trend in serious injuries to children from super strong magnets.

These small magnets look so innocuous. But if a child swallows them, the magnets stick together and cut off blood supply causing tissue to die, effectively ripping holes in their intestines or bowels.

So this reminder to remove unsafe products from sale is extremely welcome.

We advise parents to stay on their guard and to take their child to hospital straight away if they think they may have swallowed magnets.”

More information

Office for Product Safety and Standards safety alert:

Office for Product Safety and Standards risk summary:

NHS England and NHS Improvement patient safety alert:

Royal College of Emergency Medicine best practice guidance:

Learn why top doctors are so worried, read our tips for keeping children safe, find out how accidents happen, study official safety alerts and spread the word with our flyer plus social media assets and a poster and leaflet from the Office for Product Safety and Standards.