Keep objects containing magnetic balls out of the reach of children!

The health authorities are alerting parents and carers of young children to the risks of swallowing magnetic balls. These accidents can lead to very serious complications.

Two serious cases of accidental ingestion of 3 to 5 mm magnetic balls have been reported recently, involving children aged 3 years or younger. The magnetic balls in question came from "stress-relief" toys intended for adults. Furthermore, according to the data available to the health authorities, the magnetic balls used in certain building sets could also be accidentally ingested by young children.

What are the risks? 

Magnetic balls can clump together after ingestion, obstructing the digestive tract and tearing the intestinal walls causing perforations. They are far more dangerous than inert objects of the same size such as glass beads or coins. The most serious cases require major surgery and can be life-threatening to children. 

What is the best way to prevent ingestion? 

Children can mistake objects containing magnetic balls for sweets and swallow them, so it is important to keep them out of reach at all times. 

What should you do in the event of confirmed or suspected ingestion?

Contact a poison control centre immediately for advice on what to do: centres-antipoison.net. In the event of a life-threatening emergency, dial 15 (in France) or 112.

In general, products containing magnetic balls ("building blocks" or "desk gadgets") are not intended for children under 14 years of age and are therefore not subject to any specific regulations. They are therefore covered by the general safety requirement defined in Article L. 421-3 of the French Consumer Code. Manufacturers of products containing magnetic balls must in this case inform consumers that these products, although not intended for children, should be kept out of their reach as they are potentially dangerous to them.

If the magnetic balls are toy accessories, they must comply with European Directive 2009/48/EC (the Toy Safety Directive). Parents and carers of young children should ensure that they choose age-appropriate toys, read the instructions carefully before use, and take time to explain to the child how the toy works.  

If products are found to be dangerous, under either the general safety requirement or the Toy Safety Directive, the Directorate General for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) will implement withdrawal/recall measures.

However, parents and carers should be reminded that stress-relief toys for adults, building sets for people over 14 years of age and magnetic toys for older children (3-14 years) can be very dangerous for younger children if they are left within reach and the children inadvertently misuse them.

    In practice:

    > To find the nearest poison control centre: centres-antipoison.net

    > In the event of an emergency, dial 15 (in France) or 112.