• Text Colour:
  • C
  • C
  • C
  • C
  • Text Size: A A A

Warning issued over danger of swallowing small magnets

21 May 2021

A warning has been issued this week regarding the dangers presented by small high powered magnetic products, and the particular risk they pose to small children if ingested.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has launched a Product Safety Alert highlighting the danger of serious injury or fatality if two or more of the magnets are ingested. With small magnets increasingly being used in products aimed at young people and small children, such as fridge magnets, fake earrings, drink charms, bucky balls and even tongue piercings, there are even more opportunities for serious accidents leading to either serious injury or on some occasions death, to occur.  

Head of Health and Community Wellbeing with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Seamus Donaghy, said parents in particular should be mindful of the risks.

"These small magnets are being used in more and more products, and particularly items that are appealing to children. For the OPSS to issue a specific safety alert about these products underlines the seriousness of the risk they can pose.

"Derry City and Strabane District Council and the other ten council Environmental Health Departments in Northern Ireland, with support from the Office for Product Safety and Standards, have joined together to carry out what will be an extensive market surveillance exercise. Our Environmental Health Officers will shortly be visiting businesses that supply these type of products, to check compliance with product safety requirements and in some instances, to purchase samples of these products and send them off for official testing, with further follow up following receipt of results as required. These will be coordinated actions across the whole of Northern Ireland to take targeted action on this issue.  

"We are also helping to get this safety message out to as many people as possible, by helping to highlight the OPSS Product Safety Alert regarding these products through all of our social media channels. Please be alert to the potential dangers and take action immediately if you think someone has ingested one or more of these small magnets.

"We would recommend keeping products containing high powered magnets away from small children. We would also urge all businesses to comply with their obligations under product safety law and identify and remove products containing small magnets from the market if they breach safety requirements."

When one or more high powered magnets are swallowed they can attract to each other across internal tissue, cutting off blood supply to the bowel and causing obstructions, tissue necrosis, sepsis and even death. Signs that could indicate accidental ingestion in children include vomiting, fever and stomach pain and people should seek immediate medical treatment if it's believed a magnet has been swallowed.

Council's Health and Safety and Consumer Protection team will work with the OPSS and the other councils, to take appropriate action against the sale of unsafe or non-compliant products, in order to protect consumers.Consumers and businesses can contact the team for more information via our email address [email protected] or by calling the council on 02871253253 or go to https://www.derrystrabane.com/productsafety

For further information go to https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-safety-alert-issued-for-small-high-powered-magnetic-products