Children critically hurt after swallowing magnetic toys

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two children in the last week have suffered intestinal perforations after swallowing a toy called Bucky Balls, magnetic stacking balls geared toward adults.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says it has received more than 200 reports of children swallowing tiny magnets like Bucky Balls since 2008.

Some cases have required hospitalization or surgery.

Fifteen-month-old Melony Marcusen (pictured below on right) is one of two children recovering at Wolfson Children's Hospital after swallowing Bucky Balls.

Amanda Marcusen (left) holds her 15-month-old daughter Melony at Wolfson Children's Hospital.

"We had no idea that it would be so horrible," said Amanda Marcusen, Melony's mother.

Doctors are now trying to get the word out because the magnetic strength in Bucky Balls is much higher than everyday magnets and can cause major damage if consumed.

"If there is any tissue, intestine or stomach in the way, then the strength of those magnets will cause a full thickness injury and essentially a perforation and a hole in your intestine and a hole in your stomach," said Dr. Daniel Robie, of Wolfson Children's Hospital.

During surgery, Robie found four separate holes in Melony's intestine, three in the small intestine and one in the lower part of her colon, as well as contamination and infection in her belly.

The packaging on Bucky Balls includes a warning that they are unsafe for children, but kids are still getting ahold of them.

Some retailers voluntarily recalled Bucky Balls, but they're still available online.

"These Bucky Balls, the potential for a catastrophic injury really makes them stand out in comparison to other things kids put in their mouths," Robie said. "Even open safety pins are far safer for a child to swallow."

"If you have any little magnets on your refrigerator, just throw them away," Amanda Marcusen said. "Even the alphabet letter ones, those magnets in the back, they fall out. They could do the same thing and your kid will end up here. Just throw them away, throw them away. It's not worth it."

About 3 million sets of Bucky Balls have been on the market since 2010.

About the Author:

Lifetime Floridian anchors weekends and reports weekdays on issues in Nassau and Baker counties and beyond.