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Sunday, September 14, 2014

New Safety Rules Weighed for Magnets

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Late last summer, the worried mother of Annaka Chaffin, a 19-month-old from Columbus, Ohio, took her daughter to a hospital. The girl showed signs of a stomach bug, and after an exam, the hospital staff determined that she was probably suffering from a virus and sent her home.

The next day, Annaka was found unresponsive, with blood coming from her nose and mouth. Within hours, she was pronounced dead.

An autopsy showed magnets in the girl’s small intestine, according to a report by the Franklin County coroner’s office. The magnets had become attached to one another, cutting off the blood supply to her stomach and eventually killing her.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission cited the Chaffin case on Wednesday during a hearing to discuss potential new rules governing high-powered magnets, which the agency believes pose a special risk to children. From 2009 to 2013, roughly 2,900 children and teenagers went to the emergency room because they had ingested at least one high-powered magnet, according to the commission.

“These are not like the magnets you used to put on your refrigerator door,” said Dr. R. Adam Noel, an associate professor of pediatric gastroenterology at Baylor College of Medicine. “One kilogram of these drives a Prius.”

The ingestion hazard gained national attention when the safety agency began a two-year battle with Maxfield & Oberton, the creator of Buckyballs, sets of highly magnetic stacking spheres that were recalled...

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