Monday, May 07, 2007

Danger Danger Danger

Today and yesterday the Tribune has been doing a series on how yet another of our public watchdogs has been hollowed out -- the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The toy highlighted in the series is called Magnetix, and it can kill children if they swallow one of the small but very powerful magnets in it.

This story freaked me out for two reasons.

One, it's hard to believe it, but children will still swallow crazy things well beyond the toddler years (so I guess Epu and I don't get to take off for our Vegas weekend in 2.75 years after all). One kid who swallowed the magnets in the article was 8, another was 5. A friend in San Francisco also recently told me about a kid in her mom's circle who died from swallowing a small plastic object. He was 5. Unlike choking, these incidents happen quietly and in most cases the parents don't even know their kid swallowed something. The kid starts throwing up, it's like the stomach flu, then suddenly it gets worse and the lucky ones end up in emergency surgery.

Two, we actually have a toy in our house made of small powerful magnets. It's some kind of desk toy Epu had, and for much of last year it was sitting around in our living room, where Nutmeg played with it often. I knew it was a choking hazard, but between my morning sickness and fatigue and the overall chaos of our half-unpacked house, I let myself think that Nutmeg had enough common sense not to put something small into her mouth. The reality is that if she had put a couple of those in her mouth, choking might have been getting off easy, because we could have tried the Heimlich. The toy we were leaving out was even worse than Magnetix because the small magnets were not connected to one another -- they were just loose. With Magnetix, the danger is that the magnets could fall out of the toy. By the way, this toy currently resides on a high shelf in Epu's home office, and he's taking it to his work tomorrow.

If a kid swallows 2 or more powerful magnets (not the kind you have on your refrigerator, but much stronger ones that only became widely available in recent years), they can tear right through the child's intestines, powered by that same magnetic force that makes them intriguing toys. This is how the kid in the article died.

I am not usually a paranoid parent, in fact I have been known to roll my eyes at some of the precautions taken these days, considering that when we were kids our parents were practically allowed to keep us in lit charcoal grills instead of cribs and most of us survived. But this article scared the cranberry vodka right out of me. There are still some of these toys on store shelves, even though it's been recalled, because apparently that's the way the CPSC rolls these days. So if you see Magnetix -- or any other children's toys using powerful magnets that could be swallowed -- please do not buy it.


Notta Wallflower said...

Ack! One of the special ed teachers at our school has those, if I'm thinking of the right toys. They have magnetic balls that cling to little sticks so that you can make things out of them. I'll have to show her this...

Anonymous said...

I just wrestled half of a crayon out of my youngest's mouth. I am sure in the future, I will be pulling plastic figurines out of his nose one day.