In the past three years, 65 children in England have had emergency surgery after ingesting magnets. The NHS issued a patient safety notice earlier this month and is now calling for the prohibition of the little metal balls.
It stated that “neodymium or ‘super strong’ rare-earth magnets are growing popular as toys, cosmetic objects, and false piercings.”
It went on to say that, in contrast to typical magnets, “these ‘super strong’ magnets are tiny in volume yet powerful in magnetism and effortlessly swallowed.”
People are attaching two such magnets on either side of their tongue to give the appearance that the alleged piercing is real, according to an internet fad.
When tiny magnetic ball bearings are unintentionally eaten, they are pulled together in the intestines or bowels, compressing the tissue and cutting off the blood supply.
Prof Simon Kenny, pediatric surgeon and national clinical director for children and young people at NHS England, said accidental swallowing of them can cause “long-term physical problems and internal scarring”.
“There is nothing fun for children or their parents about surgery to remove magnets that have been swallowed and become stuck together through different parts of the intestines,” he said.