Increase Public Awareness about the Danger of Mishandling Magnets

magnet credit dmott9 via flickr

Target: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Goal: To increase public awareness about the dangers associated with magnets.

Magnets are a common household commodity, used in refrigerator magnets to the magnetic parts of toys, jewelry, or work badges. However, the usefulness of magnets and their commonplace status in our homes and in our lives sometimes has the result of making us forget about how dangerous magnets can be if mishandled. Sign this petition and urge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to increase public awareness about the dangers associated with magnets.

Magnets can be mishandled in a variety of ways, but all can have serious, if not deadly consequences. The BBC reported on a new fad among children in middle and high school in which they wear magnetic studs on each side of their tongue to mimic a tongue piercing- an activity that many parents have embraced as a healthy alternative to their children actually piercing their tongue. However, these studs are sometimes mistakenly swallowed which can lead to either minimal health risks if just one magnetic half is ingested or very serious health complications should both magnetic studs be ingested. The magnets can reattach in the intestines, causing perforations of the bowel which need emergency surgery to be corrected.

Surgery to remove magnets has become much more prevalent than it once was due to the large number of toys being made with magnets and because people are not aware of the danger associated with mishandling them. Because children see jewelry being made with magnets, they sometimes attempt to fashion their own from magnets they find around the house which can be even more dangerous as these magnets have a much stronger magnetic force attracting them.

Additionally, magnets can sometimes prove to be deadly even if they are not mishandled. The BBC ran an article in 2006 warning about the potentially fatal influence of magnets for individuals with pacemakers and other heart monitoring devices. Close contact within 3 cm with refrigerator magnets or the magnet used on a work badge is enough to damage a pacemaker. Magnets made from neodymium-iron-boron, which are shiny and silver in color, are dangerous when at a size of 8g and at a range of 3cm; however, magnets any larger than 8g will have a larger range and can cause damage to heart monitoring devices.

While the packaging on magnets may include a warning about the dangers associated with magnets if mishandled, the bottom line is that most people do not read the warnings. And if they do, they are quick to forget them. Physicians need to remind parents about the danger associated with magnets being swallowed and remind patients with pacemakers about the danger of being in close contact with any magnet. Sign this petition and urge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to increase public awareness about the dangers of this common household good.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Secretary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius,

We encourage you to launch a public awareness campaign about the dangers associated with magnets. Magnets are often considered harmless because of their commonplace status in our lives and in our homes. However, magnets can prove to be deadly if they are mishandled and can have a deadly influence on individuals using heart monitoring devices such as pacemakers.

If two magnets are swallowed, they can reattach in the intestines, leading to a bowel perforation that needs emergency surgery to be corrected. This happens much more frequently than one would think as jewelry, such as tongue studs mimicking a piercing, are now made with magnets. Additionally, neodymium magnets are common in goods such as refrigerator magnets and workplace badges, and these magnets can damage heart motioning deices such as pacemakers.

Please issue a public awareness campaign informing people about the dangers associated with the mishandling of magnets and how magnets can interfere with some medical devices. Magnets are a useful tool that should continue to be safely used and handled, but these preventable dangers need to be discussed so that people are aware of the possible repercussions from mishandling magnets.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: dmott9 via flickr

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