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Parents warned about dangers of online magnetic balls

Published:  15 January 2020

Families are being warned about the dangers of magnetic balls, banned in Australia but widely available online, after two North Queensland children required emergency care over Christmas from ingesting the toys.

Mother-of-three Rebecca Fay said she didn’t think twice about ordering the magnetic balls, sold as part of a multicoloured magnetic construction kit, on eBay as a Christmas present for her seven-year-old daughter Olivia.

It wasn’t until after she rushed Olivia to Townsville University Hospital with tummy pain after the primary schooler accidentally swallowed five of the balls that she realised the danger.

“Apparently it’s a good game to put one ball on the outside of the cheek and one on the inside of the mouth to see how the magnets attract,” Mrs Fay said.

Townsville public health director Dr Steven Donohue isn’t seeing the funny side of the magnetic balls.

“These balls are very small, between one and 10 millimetres, and because they are metallic there can be very serious consequences from ingesting them,” he said.

“If they are swallowed, they can stick together and pinch the insides of the small intestine or stomach potentially leading to perforation, peritonitis and other dangerous complications.

“They are also a serious choking hazard for young children.”

Dr Donohue said he urgently called on online retail sites, including eBay, to immediately take these magnetic balls out of circulation.

“Sites such as eBay must obey their own rules in relation banned products to keep their customers safe,” he said.

“I strongly caution all parents against buying them; they are a risk to children,” he said.

Dr Donohue said a North Queensland toddler had more than a hundred magnetic balls extracted from his stomach this month.

“The ingestion was fast, silent and very dangerous,” he said.

“Both of the children who ingested these balls were very lucky; if their parents hadn’t acted quickly things could have been a lot worse.”

Dr Donohue said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had banned the magnetic balls in Australia.

“They’re banned for good reason,” he said.

“They could be lethal to a child.”

Mrs Fay said the trip to the ED with Olivia had been very distressing.

“She was in pain by the time we arrived, she had x-rays and was admitted for observation.

“Thankfully, the balls passed naturally but not before some very anxious days.”

Mrs Fay said she was very careful as a mum.

“I didn’t think twice about ordering the magnetic balls online because they were so widely available and popular,” she said.

“I knew they weren’t sold in stores, but I didn’t stop to think why.

“I’d encourage families to check the ACCC website for product reports, especially for children’s toys.

“I want to add my voice to Dr Donohue’s because I don’t want to see another family go through this,” she said.

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