High-powered magnets

Small high powered magnets can pose serious health risks if swallowed. Some of these magnets are now banned from sale in New Zealand.

The basics

While small high powered magnets appear harmless, if swallowed, they can join up in the digestive system. They join up with such force that they crush the tissue. If left untreated this can result in major tissue damage, sepsis and even death.

Product ban

The sale of some high powered magnets is now banned in New Zealand. Below are some questions and answers relating to the ban.

Which magnets are banned?

The ban applies:

  • to the sale and supply of small, strong magnets sold in sets of 2 or more,
  • in situations where children are able to access them.

These magnets are much more powerful than conventional ferrous type magnets.

Does this ban include from classroom and industrial use?

The ban only applies where the magnets are sold or intended for personal, domestic or domestic use. It won't affect their use in schools and universities for teaching purposes, nor does it affect any industrial or commercial use.

When did the ban come into effect?

The unsafe goods notice came into effect on 24 January 2013. From this date no-one is allowed to import or sell these magnets in New Zealand.

See Small high-powered magnets Unsafe Goods Notice.

Why are these magnets dangerous?

Small strong magnets are harmless to play with. But when ingested or inhaled they can become attracted to each other. If, for example, they are in the digestive tract it can lead to serious internal blockages and damage that in some cases can require major surgery.

Why a ban?

Many of the magnet sets previously available came with warning and strict usage instructions. However these are easily lost and forgotten, and evidence shows they haven’t been effective.

Regulation is only one measure to protect children. The most significant protection is for parents and other adults to make sure that:

  • young children can't access the magnets, and
  • older children are made very aware of the dangers of misusing them.

What about the magnets already out there?

The ban isn't retrospective, so there will be numerous sets of these magnets already out in the community.

If you have a set of these magnets and are concerned about the risk to children, we recommend you dispose of them.