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Family Voices — Kenny’s Story

Kenny died after swallowing loose magnets that fell out of a magnetic toy into the carpeting of his home. He was 21 months old.

Submitted by his mom, Penny

Kenny’s older brother, Ben, received two sets of Magnetix for his 10th birthday. He and the older children did as they were instructed: put the toy up high in its case when done playing with it. Nine days after Ben’s birthday, Kenny had flu-like symptoms— after 24 hours he seemed to be getting worse. I took him to the hospital. He was breathing shallowly and they said he would need a breathing tube. I was hysterical, knowing instantly he was in serious condition. On Thanksgiving Day 2005, Kenny’s heart stopped and they were unable to start it again.

The next day, the coroner called to tell us Kenny had eight small cylindrical magnets in his intestine forming a bulbous completely blocking his intestine. When we looked at the pieces of the Magnetix toy, we noticed many magnets missing from the plastic pieces. Then we noticed the tiny magnets sticking to a piece of the toy as we moved it across our carpet near our couches and chairs. As the older children were playing with it, tiny magnets were falling out of their large plastic pieces and onto the rug without anyone noticing. After the toy was put away, Kenny must have found the magnets in the carpet and swallowed them on two separate occasions.

We trust God took him quickly to end his suffering and delivering him from life threatening surgery he was unable to survive. He was our angel from the day he was born. A miraculous birth and beautiful infancy; our perfect son who came from heaven has gone back to heaven.

What’s Happened Since Kenny’s Death?

In March 2006, several months after Kenny’s death, Rose Art Industries Inc. recalled all Magnetix Magnetic Building Sets. The recall was expanded in April 2007.  As Kenny’s parents suspected, the product was defective—tiny magnets could fall out of the plastic building pieces and be picked up by young children. Magnets that attract to each other through body tissue can result in serious internal damage and death.

The CPSC has released posters and videos to make parents aware of the dangers of magnets, and in 2012 tried unsuccessfully to ban high-powered magnets. Because many high-powered magnets are intended to be used by adults, they are subject to less stringent standards than children’s toys are.

In 2011, Mega Brands agreed to a settlement in a New Jersey Federal Court which would compensate consumers who purchased magnetic toys that were the subject of recalls in 2006 through 2008.


How You Can Take Action

To take action and help prevent further incidents, injuries, and deaths, there are a number of things you can do:

  1. Check all toys for recalls by visiting www.CPSC.gov. You can also read safety incidents submitted by fellow consumers at SaferProducts.gov, even before a recall has been issued.
  2. Stay up-to-date with toy standards set by the CPSC. The toy standard was most recently updated in April of 2017.
  3. Follow age recommendations on toys and other children’s products—these recommendations are set due to safety testing for choking and other hazards.
  4. Keep children away from magnets.
  5. If your children is experiencing flu-like symptoms (abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) and/or you suspect they have swallowed a magnet, seek immediate medical attention.

More Information on Toys

Toys are meant to provide joy and entertainment, yet many of them contain hidden hazards for children and they have been related to far too many injuries. However, toy safety has improved vastly over time. Toys had consistently been the top product type recalled by the CPSC, but in 2015 it was third (behind clothing and nursery products). There were 17 toy recalls involving over 370,000 units in 2015, which was a huge decrease from 62 recalls of over 17 million units back in 2006.

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