Toys to avoid, #1

Bad toy!

Ah, ’tis the season! Chestnuts are roasting, sleighbells are ringing, etc., and, unfortunately, toy companies are turning out a spate of new items that carry unusual safety concerns for children.

Today’s example: those tiny, round, powerful and popular magnets (sold as Neocube and other brands). If swallowed by a child they can cause considerable harm, even death.

Here’s what happens: a toddler swallows one magnet (or more) and then later swallows another, or a metallic object. Sitting in different parts of the bowel, the magnets/metal objects are instantly attracted to each other, pinching loops of bowel between them as they connect.

The trapped bowel tissue may die, leading to a perforation (hole) in the intestine, or the magnets may obstruct the bowel–conditions that both require emergency surgery.

This isn’t a theoretical concern. At least 19 children have required surgery to remove such magnets, and one 20 month-old died as a result.

So if you have small children, or are around them in daily life, don’t buy these. If you already have them, put them away or get rid of them altogether.


Filed under Safety

4 responses to “Toys to avoid, #1

  1. I know you’re not a vet, but I’ll bet these same troubles would happen to a dog or cat if they were to swallow these magnets. Yikes. Thanks for the heads up.


  2. Yes – the authors of the study even mentioned the possibility of harm to pets. They weren’t aware of any studies of that. This is one more reason that goldfish are the perfect pet: they never make a mess on your carpet, don’t have to be walked, don’t howl at the moon or chew up your shoes, never need neutering, and now this–they won’t eat your magnets! (Just don’t drop them in the tank.)


  3. I can’t believe toy makers are still getting away with placing these “toys” on the shelves! It’s been several years now since awareness of this danger came to light and yet…

    * In terms of fish for pets: yes, a great pet until your Beta fish named Steve dies suddenly, and you’re left explaining to your tearful children what happened to their aquatic friend. (We’ve had two fish funerals in our household in recent months!) Alas, good teaching moments about the cycle of life.


    • Seriously, Kimmelin, this is why you should always have a similarly-colored “Steve II” on hand as a backup, maybe hidden away in his little bowl on top of a bookcase. That way, when Original Steve passes on, you can simply switch bowls before the kids figure out what’s up! Voila! No more need for expensive funerals!

      Plan B: If you can’t find a same-colored Steve-successor, purchase any Beta available, explaining to the children that Betas, like salmon, change color over the course of their lifespan, and Steve is merely preparing to swim upstream and spawn. Great circle-of-life bonding moment!

      You’re welcome,


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