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Powerful magnets called big risk for kids, teens


(CBS/AP) Watch out for magnets. That's the word from the Consumer Products Safety Commission, which on Thursday warned that powerful ball-bearing magnets pose a big threat to children.

So far this year, the commission has gotten 14 reports of problems with the magnets - up from seven reports last year and one in 2009. The kids involved ranged in age from 18 months to 15 years. Eleven of the children required surgery to have the magnets removed.

The CPSC says that when two or more of these tiny magnets are swallowed, they attract one another and can lead to serious injuries, such as intestinal blockages, blood poisoning, and small holes in the stomach or intestines.

"I have looked at X-rays of children with magnets in their intestines, and you can see how they stick together and cause a severe blockage," Inez Tenenbaum, the commission's chairman, said in an interview.

The symptoms can mimic those of a cold or the flu and send parents to the doctor several times before an X-ray shows the blockage, Tenenbaum said.

The commission said teens are using the magnets to mimic body piercings, placing the magnets on opposite sides of their tongues and then accidentally swallowing them.

The desktop magnet toys, such as Buckyballs, are marketed as adult toys - gadgets with little magnets that create patterns and different shapes. The CPSC says they come with warnings that indicate they are for adult-use only and should be kept away from kids.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission has more information about the magnets.