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Attention needs to be paid to incidents of children swallowing magnets 2018-07-30

Attention needs to be paid to incidents of children swallowing magnets


- Some magnetic toys, etc. do not meet safety standards -


    Incidents of swallowing magnets which can be fatal to children occur every year, and magnetic toys which do not meet safety standards are being circulated in the market, requiring special attention from consumers.


    For the last 5 years and 3 months (2013~March 2018), the KCA Consumer Injury Surveillance System (CISS)* received a total of 222 child incidents associated with magnets, and among them, 181 cases (81.5%) occurred to children under the age of five years and 188 cases (84.7%) were caused by swallowing magnets.

* The CISS(Consumer Injury Surveillance System) collects, analyzes, and assesses data from 80 consumer injury information providers including 62 hospitals and 18 fire stations designated under the Framework Act on Consumers, and 1372 Consumer Counseling Center.


    For this reason, the KCA (President Hee-sook Lee) performed tests and investigations on the safety and labeling of 58 products* including magnetic toys, etc. circulated and sold in the market.

* 36 toys and jewellery for children(29 magnetic toys, 7 magnetic earrings), other 22 magnetic products(11 small, high-powered magnet sets, 11 magnetic memo holders)


 6 out of 10 magnetic toys tested had a high risk of causing safety incidents.

    When a child swallows two or more strong magnets or a magnet along with a metal object that can be attracted to it, the magnets can attract and stick to each other within the child’s body, causing intestinal perforation or intestinal obstruction. These internal injuries can lead to serious life-threatening problems and even death.


    In order to prevent such safety incidents, the Special Act on Safety Management of Children’s Products states that magnets detached from toys or magnetic components should be large enough they cannot be swallowed, or magnetic flux index of magnets or magnetic components should be under 50kG²mm²*.

* Special Act on Safety Management of Children’s ProductsSafety Confirmation Safety Standards Annex 6(Toys), Common Safety Standards of Children’s Products


    However, the results of the tests (small parts test, misuse test, magnetic flux index test, etc.) on the safety of 58 products revealed that 37 products(63.8%) did not meet the requested safety standards.


    Among 36 magnetic toys and magnetic earrings subject to safety management, the magnets or magnetic components of 25 products were of a size that could be swallowed by children, and out of those 25 products, 15 products exceeded three times (176kG²mm²) up to 45 times (2,298kG²mm²) the allowable magnetic flux index for toys (under 50kG²mm²).


    And all of the 22 ‘small, high-powered magnet sets*’ and ‘magnetic memo holders’ which children could play with were of a size that could be swallowed by children, and exceeded 1.4 times (71kG²mm²) up to 25 times(1,277kG²mm²) the permitted magnetic flux index for toys.

* ‘Small, high-powered magnet sets’ are made up of 3mm~5mm tiny, strong magnetic balls, and are sold under the name ‘Neocube,’ etc.



[ Results of tests on the safety of magnetic toys, etc. ]




Number of Products Tested

Number of Products That Fitted Into the Small Parts Cylinder*

Magnetic Flux Index Test(kG²mm²)**

Safety Standard

Range of Magnetic Flux Index of Products That Exceeded the Safety Standard

Number of Products That Exceeded the Standard

Toys and Children’s Jewellery



Under 50



Other Magnetic Products (small, high-powered magnet sets and magnetic memo holders)






* A 31.7mm inside-diameter cylinder with a slanted bottom and depth ranging from 25.4mm to 57.1mm used to identify magnetic toys or magnetic toy components that are of a size that may be able to be swallowed by children

** The magnetic flux index test was performed on ‘the products that fitted into the small parts cylinder.’


 Magnetic products recalled overseas, circulated in the domestic market without any restriction

    The European Union(EU) and other countries have applied their toy safety standards to ‘small, high-powered magnet sets’ which can cause safety incidents, such as intestinal perforation, etc., when a child swallows, and ‘magnetic memo holders’ which children can mistake for toys, and actively recalled them regardless of the intended age range of the products.


    However, in Korea, even though all of the 22 ‘small, high-powered magnet sets’ and ‘magnetic memo holders’ tested did not meet the safety standards for toys, and some ‘small, high-powered magnet sets’ are advertised as toys using phrases such as “Toys for Children,” “Helping Improve Concentration in Children,” etc., they are being circulated in the market without any restriction, requiring urgent improvement.


 Safety management for magnetic toys, etc. should be strengthened.

    Based on the results of the tests and investigations, the KCA plans to request the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards to strengthen its product safety management for magnetic toys, etc., and also to enhance its market surveillance activity for unauthorized products.


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