The Minster for Consumer Protection, Nick McKim, today imposed an interim ban on the sale of small, high-powered magnets that can cause serious injury or death if swallowed by children.
Mr McKim said the sets of small, high-powered rare-earth magnets, with diameters of approximately 4mm to 5mm are marketed as 'executive toys' for adults to use to create patterns and build shapes.
"These products have been involved in a number of incidents across Australia where children have swallowed the small magnets and suffered serious injury, and in at least one case death," he said.
"Some older children and teenagers have also swallowed the magnets after using them as imitation tongue or lip piercings.
"If a child swallows more than one of these high-powered magnets, they can attach to each other across the intestinal wall and perforate the intestine, requiring emergency surgery.
"The magnets appear harmless and may be potentially mistaken for small ball bearings or cake decorations. Warnings on packaging are likely to be ineffective because once the product is removed from its packaging, the magnets themselves carry no warning."
Mr McKim said the products have been advertised by retailers recently under various names, including 'BuckyBalls', 'Neocubes' and 'Neodymium sphere magnets', as an ideal Father's Day gift.
"I would like to remind parents to always keep small objects that could pose a choking hazard away from children and to seek medical attention immediately if they suspect their child has swallowed small, high-powered magnets," he said.
"Relevant Ministers from each state and territory have agreed to impose an interim ban on these products effective immediately, to ensure that the public is protected from the risk that these magnets pose.
"The Australian Government is expected to impose a permanent ban on the products following a period of consultation with industry."
Section 109 of the Australian Consumer Law empowers State Ministers to introduce an interim ban on a product if it appears that a product, or a reasonably foreseeable use or misuse of the product, will or may cause injury to any person. An interim ban is effective for a period of 60 days and can be extended for a further 30 days if required.
For more information on product safety contact Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading on 1300 65 44 99 or visit www.consumer.tas.gov.au
Tasmanian Government Communication Unit
Phone: (03) 6233 6573