Magnetic ball set recalled due to high-power magnets posing health hazards

By Lisa Marie Basile | Fact-checked by Davi Sherman
Published January 3, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled Relax Magnetic Balls, a set of 216 balls made from neodymium rare-earth magnets sold on

  • The magnetic balls were recalled because they did not comply with requirements of the federal magnet regulation; the set contains one or more magnets that fit within CPSC’s small parts cylinder, and the magnets are stronger than permitted.

  • Swallowing magnets can lead to choking, intestinal perforation, bowel necrosis, fistula formation, and obstruction.

A magnetic ball set, known as Relax Magnetic Balls, sold exclusively through and manufactured in China by Joybuy, has been recalled by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) due to their posing an ingestion hazard. Adults and children may both use this product. [] 

The colorful balls, sold in a set of 216, are described by the CPSC as “small, spherical, loose and separable,” made from 5mm-diameter neodymium rare-earth magnets. They come in a clear plastic case and a portable tin storage box. Once removed from the container, the tiny pieces are potentially hazardous to children. 

“The recalled 5mm magnetic ball sets do not comply with the requirements of the mandatory federal magnet regulation because the sets contain one or more magnets that fit within CPSC’s small parts cylinder, and the magnets are stronger than permitted,” the CPSC says. “When high-powered magnets are swallowed, the ingested magnets can attract to each other, or to another metal object, and become lodged in the digestive system. This can result in perforations, twisting and/or blockage of the intestines, infection, blood poisoning, and death.”

The CPSC notes that no specific injuries related to the product have been reported but that an estimated 2,400 magnet ingestions were treated in hospital emergency departments between 2017 and 2021. There have also been seven deaths involving the ingestion of hazardous magnets, five of which occurred in the United States. 

The magnetic balls were sold between February 2022 and April 2023 and have since been recalled. The CPSC says that people who have magnetic balls in their homes should remove them from their children immediately. Joybuy is providing a refund to all customers. 

According to an article published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, neodymium magnets are much stronger than traditional magnets. If more than one magnet is swallowed at the same time (or along with another metallic object), the authors write, “the loops of intestine can be squeezed between them resulting in bowel  including perforations.”[]

Another report published in the the Permanente Journal found that five patients between the ages of 15 months and 18 years who had swallowed magnets presented with other abdominal symptoms, including bowel necrosis, perforation, fistula formation, and obstruction. These patients ultimately required laparoscopic-assisted exploration with or without endoscopy.[]

Research has also found that the longer the duration of ingestion, the likelihood of complications increases.[] 

One child who had swallowed magnets experienced bloody vomiting before being taken to the hospital, where he subsequently died, according to a case report published in Legal Medicine.[] 

The autopsy revealed that the child had ingested two neodymium magnetic spheres—0.5 cm in diameter. The spheres were found in two different places in the small and large intestines and were magnetically pulled toward each other. “A loop of approximately 1-m length with features of small intestinal hemorrhagic necrosis and small intestinal mechanical obstruction was found,” the authors write. 

According to Daniel Ganjian, MD, FAAP, a board-certified pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, clinicians should explain the risks around certain toys to pediatric patients’ parents, including the risk of choking on certain small toys—whether they’re magnetic or not. “Powerful magnets can attract small metal objects, creating a choking risk,” he says. 

Dr. Ganjian stresses the importance of age-appropriate toys: “Every toy has a recommended age range on the packaging. This is based on safety testing and considers factors like a child's motor skills and tendency to mouth objects. Always stick to the recommended age range,” he says. More importantly, parents should opt for toys that are too big to fit inside a child’s mouth: “A good rule of thumb is that the toy should be larger than a toilet paper tube,” he says. 

Dr. Ganjian says that toys with hazardous components—like magnets—should be kept high out of reach of children. If toys with hazardous components are played with, children should be supervised. “Closely watch young children during playtime, especially when they are mouthing objects, and clear the floor regularly. Pick up any small objects that may have fallen on the floor, under furniture, or between cushions.”

Dr. Ganjian says that parents should be advised to familiarize themselves with the risks of small toys, including those like magnetic balls. Parents should also take a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) class, typically offered by the American Red Cross or local hospitals.

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