Magnet Mishap – Popular Magnetic Ball Toy Discontinued from our Science Store

The magnetic spheres might be tiny, but they’re super strong. These tiny rare earth magnets are so strong that their attractive forces work through flesh (your tongue to be specific). Unfortunately, a 13 year old girl nearly died after accidentally swallowing magnetic ball bearings she used as a fake tongue piercing. This most recent accident prompted our product team to remove the popular science toy from our print and online catalog.

According to news reports from KVDR Fox31 News, the girl is recovering after swallowing fake tongue rings, which are really small magnetized ball bearings.  The tiny magnets could have burned a hole through her intestines.

“Of course I got upset and I had asked her what is in your mouth, then she said, “They come out mommy, look,” and she showed me.  I told her “you need to throw those away,”” says Lauren’s mother, Andrea Ulibarri.

The pain got so intense on Tuesday that Lauren called her mother at work.

Her mom says that Lauren was in tears, “she couldn’t walk, her side was hurting pretty bad.”

“They bounced off my tooth and went down my throat, and I couldn’t stop it,” says Lauren.

A CAT scan clearly shows two sets of tiny ball bearings in Lauren’s intestines.

“You have one strong magnet in one loop of intestine, another magnet in another loop of intestine, and those magnets are so strong that they will bring those intestines close together and the two loops joined,” says Lauren’s surgeon, Dr. Saundra Kay of Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL. “Slowly those magnets will burrow through the intestines and it makes a hole.”

4 replies
  1. joebanana
    joebanana says:

    What ever happened to common sense? They put warnings on products for a reason, to warn people. Maybe they need warnings on people.

  2. michalchik
    michalchik says:

    I appreciate your concern for both the safety of children and liability issues but we harm our kids by taking away things they can learn from because they might think of some harmful misuses of them. I tell my kids and students about the hazards of magnets including swallowing them and then let them play with them. I don’t let them play with the ones that can crush bones, but if they get a nasty pinch after I have warned them, they have just learned an important lesson about caution. When we make everything in this world perfectly safe for our children, we instill a contempt for safety rules, incautiousness, and eliminate 90% of what makes science interesting. The removal of the small magnets from your inventory was an overreaction. A warning label and the story about the girl would have been more appropriate.

  3. Alice
    Alice says:

    My 3 year old son swallowed two magnets from our refrigerator while he was being “babysat”. I have no idea how he even got them down, because they were those big promotional ones from Pizza Hut. Really, it doesn’t seem like it could happen until it actually does. he almost burned a hole in his intestines, if he didn’t tell us that he did, he would have… I know how this mom feels…


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