Death of 2 children who ingested tiny magnets warns ahead of vacation – NBC Chicago
One winter evening in a Michigan home hit hard by COVID-19 last January, a toddler fell ill.
Her name was RayLynn.
While 14-month-old RayLynn’s symptoms mirrored those of the coronavirus, by the time doctors figured out what the real cause of her labored breathing was, it was too late.
Her family are said to be devastated and shocked by the coroner’s findings: RayLynn died after ingesting seven multi-colored and very powerful magnetic beads that connected inside her. The magnets were a Christmas present given to RayLynn’s older brother.
RayLynn’s death is one of three deaths caused by the ingestion of a small magnet since 2018 that NBC 5 Responds discovered after reviewing police reports, medical examiner’s findings and US Commission investigations for Consumer Product Safety (CPSC) over the past four years.
The deaths did not happen in a vacuum.
Since the ban on the sale of high-powered tiny magnet sets was revoked in 2016, NBC 5 Responds has revealed that ingestion injuries have increased by more than 530%.
While a rule proposed by the CPSC may reinstate this ban in the future, it will not be in place by the time families and caregivers visit online stores and retail stores this year in search of holiday gifts.
That’s why doctors and lawyers fear injuries and deaths – some they’ve seen firsthand – may not be the last, triggering a stern warning: small sets of magnets don’t have their place in the homes of young children.
The consequences of such a situation could be fatal.
“They look so innocent, but they’re deadly.”
RayLynn’s parents have allowed NBC 5 Responds to use their daughter’s name and photo in the hopes that other parents and caregivers will take the magnet warnings seriously.
It all started with a well-meaning Christmas present for RayLynn’s older brother last year. This gift – a set of multicolored 3mm magnetic balls – was the culprit that claimed the life of the Michigan Center toddler. According to a Blackman-Leoni Township Police investigation, the magnet set was a gift from a relative.
In the days leading up to RayLynn’s death on January 5, 2021, the whole family felt the effects of COVID-19 after a family member tested positive and was quarantined. RayLynn had neither eaten nor drunk and had vomited several times.
Doctors had told the family they believed RayLynn should be tested for COVID-19, and his conditions should be monitored.
On January 5, the situation took a dramatic turn. The toddler was rushed to a local hospital, but there was little doctors could do to save his life.
It wasn’t until after RayLynn’s death that the Jackson County, Michigan medical examiner’s office discovered that his symptoms and death were not caused by the coronavirus, but rather by seven magnetic beads first discovered. times in an x-ray. The medical examiner’s office confirmed that the cause of her death was intestinal perforation after the beads magnetized inside her.
By the time RayLynn’s devastated family learned of the magnets, investigators said the product packaging had already been discarded, making it difficult to confirm the specific brand involved.
An officer recovered the remaining magnets as evidence in the investigation.
RayLynn’s mother told a CPSC investigator a few months later that she believed the magnets were purchased online after a parent saw an advertisement on social media.
The reality is still hard for RayLynn’s family to fathom that something so small could cause so much damage.
“You would never think it,” Nathan, RayLynn’s father, told NBC 5 Responds. “They look so innocent, but they are deadly.”
Death amid wave of nationwide injuries
Injuries from ingesting magnets have become a terrifying norm for pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. James Berman.
Berman has no connection to the Michigan case, but said the problems caused by the ingestion of magnets are not isolated in one place. They can be found all over the country.
Berman said he and his team of surgeons and specialists at the Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance now see one case of ingestion of magnets every two months, at least six per year.
“The force of these is so powerful,” said Berman, holding four magnets that recently threatened the life of a Chicago child. “These magnets are definitely associated with a perforation of the intestines.”
The doctor lists the symptoms of ingesting magnets so easily that it is clear that they have become routine for him.
“The kid is in pain. And then that pain evolves into more tenderness where you can’t push on his tummy,” Berman said. “Then they can develop a fever. ”
Symptoms, followed by an x-ray and a revealing image.
“They are quite recognizable on x-rays because they are small round balls,” says Berman. “And there is more than one.”
The fact that these magnets are often sold in the hundreds – some sets even contain 1,000 – and that they have a higher flux index or force, said Berman that there is a high risk of injury if the magnets are damaged. ingestion.
“A magnet is not a problem. They are small objects, and they can easily go from one end to the other,” says Berman.
“The problem is, these magnets that are produced in these sets have a force that holds them together very tightly,” Berman said. “If the magnets separate from each other then reattach [internally], then a magnet ends on one side of the wall of the intestines and a magnet ends on the other side and they pinch. “
For all the close calls doctors see, there’s a growing list of victims who don’t, including RayLynn and two more deaths that NBC 5 Responds is first reporting.
The deaths were discovered after a Freedom of Information Act registration application from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
A 2-year-old boy died in 2018 after swallowing 14 magnetic marbles, a CPSC investigation has revealed. The CPSC redacted all other identifiable details in its report, including where the death took place.
When she began her investigation a year later in 2019, CPSC investigators reported the boy’s symptoms included stomach pain and vomiting two days before his death.
In New York City, the CPSC reports the rare case of a magnet swallowing death involving an adult.
A 43-year-old man died in 2020 after swallowing an unknown amount of magnetic marbles from a construction kit. The circumstances leading to his death are unknown, as investigators reported difficulties in locating the man’s family and the results of the autopsy from the New York City chief medical examiner’s office, a letter said. included in documents.
In the three deaths over the past three years, CPSC investigators were unable to determine the brands of magnets due to unique challenges in each circumstance. This conclusion is probably based in part on the fact that the market has been flooded with different sets of magnets sold around the world.
While some magnet sets include detailed warnings, advocates believe a label only goes as far as when the magnets enter a home and are out of the box.
New regulation on small magnets
As this holiday season approaches, NBC 5 Responds has found plenty of magnet sets for sale, both online and in stores.
Some sets include labeling that the product is not intended for children, but can still be found on the shelves of toy stores.
Nancy Cowles, executive director of the nonprofit Kids in Danger, believes there is no reason these products are on the market.
“There’s really no way to contain the danger,” Cowles said.
Cowles and other advocates have said there is reason to be optimistic about the future.
A new rule proposed by the CPSC would reinstate the ban on tiny, high-power magnets, similar to the one put in place in 2014.
After reports of thousands of children injured by ingesting magnets and at least one child who died, the CPSC in 2014 considered toy magnets and games made from rare earth elements to pose a risk. for safety and withdrew them from the market.
CPSC records show that ingestion of magnets fell by nearly 80% in the months that followed.
But in 2016, a decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals repealed the CPSC rule, ruling it was “incomplete and insufficiently explained.”
Soon after, the magnets found their way back onto store shelves and ingestion injuries increased across the country.
Cowles said she knew the rule proposed by the CPSC would save lives, if passed.
“It will take these strong magnets off the market altogether rather than just labeling them for older children,” Cowles told NBC 5 Responds.
The only caveat is that there is no chance the new rule will be in place by this holiday season, and that is why advocates are urging anyone with young children at home to keep these. small magnets completely outside.
“Get it out of the houses and protect the kids because kids obviously have no idea of the danger. And frankly, most parents have no idea of the danger,” Cowles said.