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Keeping the family safe in isolation

When kids are stuck indoors, they can get creative in how they keep themselves entertained. This article highlights three known hazards around the home that parents and carers need to watch out for.

Magnetic toys

Toys with small high-powered magnets are banned in Australia, because children sometimes swallow them which can cause horrendous internal injuries. However people have been buying them online from overseas, which makes the ban hard to enforce. There’s anecdotal evidence that injuries here are on the rise.

Magnet toy hazard

A similar ban in the USA has been the subject of dispute between the government and suppliers. The suppliers won the argument, saying the products are marketed for adults and carry warnings, and now the products are back on the market. But injury and hospitalisation rates have increased again .

Many of the toys are simple silver balls, like ball bearings. And the magnets used in each one can be 30 times stronger than a fridge magnet.

Yesterday, an ad for a magnetic toy appeared in my personal Facebook feed, which made me think they’re specifically marketing to families trying to stay entertained during the corona virus isolation. I could see no warnings or age recommendations on the website. In fact the supplier’s page included a child who looked only three years old next to the magnetic balls. Unless the magnets are below the allowable strength, I think this is unconscionable.

The danger lies in cases where more than one magnet is swallowed. Inside the digestive system, one magnet can attract another and tear the intestinal wall, which leads to very serious internal injuries.

These injuries are gruesome.

Bryan Rudolph, US paediatric gastroenterologist

In January this year, a 7-year-old Queensland girl needed surgery to remove several small powerful silver magnets she’d swallowed.

“This is one of the most dangerous products on the market,” said Bryan Rudolph, the paediatric gastroenterologist who participated in the US magnet toys standards process.

As one recent article that I read says, the value to society of a creative toy, even if aimed and marketed to adults, can’t be greater than the safety of its children.

Child injured by button batteries
Shaylah Carmichael in a
Melbourne hospital after swallowing a button battery, 2019

Button batteries

We also have a big problem with children swallowing button batteries.

These small, coin-sized batteries are used in a vast number of products, and are of course more common than magnetic toys. Suppliers of batteries and battery powered products need to ensure the battery compartments are child-resistant. And then parents and carers need to actively make sure that little kids don’t have access to the batteries at home.

Unlike the magnets, injuries caused by just one swallowed button battery can lead to serious injury. The battery can corrode the oesophagus and burn through to the heart. Injuries can be fatal, or lead to life-long impairment.

I’ve written on this website many times about button batteries, including a post titled Are button batteries the most challenging product safety problem ever?

Toppling furniture and TVs

Children stuck indoors may try to create their own adventures and may take to climbing the  furniture. Chests of drawers can become staircases. Bookshelves might be mountains to scale.

Many types of furniture can be prone to toppling and families need to make sure their existing furniture is secured to the wall.

Children getting crushed under fallen bookshelves and chests of drawers happens all too often.

It’s not difficult to secure your furniture.

Furniture tip-over prevention

Stay vigilant in these unusual times

You don’t want your child having to go to hospital at any time, let alone now when the health system is in crisis mode. Don’t assume it won’t happen to you and your kids. Stay vigilant!