Are magnets safe for babies?
2016 has been an amazing year for innovation in the baby gear world, from the Cybex Cloud Q Infant Car Seat to the BabyZen YoYo+. Among our favorite innovative products are those that use magnets, most notably the 4Moms High Chair, which uses magnets to easily glide the tray onto the tracks (and hold magnetic dishes and utensils in place, too). We also love the Magnificent Baby clothing line, which uses magnets instead of traditional snaps. And magnetic toys are all the rage, including Magna-Tiles, Magformers, and my favorite, Tegu.
However, your baby’s safety is your number one concern, and there have been a lot of questions over the years about magnets. As gear continues to evolve, there are definitely times where a company takes a step into uncharted territory and comes out with something that seemed awesome on paper, but doesn’t quite hold up practically. As parents and loved ones, there’s a lot of research we have to do ourselves and make sure we’re steering clear of anything that doesn’t contribute to a healthy, preferably happy baby. So, let’s clear the air on magnets in baby gear.
Let’s start with the basic science, which you probably remember from elementary school: magnets are bits of iron, of any size or shape, that pull themselves to other bits of iron. The result is a magnetic field, and it only affects anything that also has iron in it. Magnets also have poles: a North pole and South pole. The North pole of a magnet will be attracted to the South pole of another magnet, but will repel another North pole.
Magnets attract other iron, and human blood contains iron, so I’ve occasionally been asked whether or not a magnet close by could interfere with proper blood flow, and cause a build-up wherever the magnet is. To answer that, let’s look at the MRI procedure. If you didn’t know, MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. An MRI machine is basically a giant magnet: a magnet so absurdly powerful that if you walked into the same room as an MRI machine in operation, a pen in your front pocket would tear itself out of your shirt as it zoomed to the other side of the room.
Yet an MRI is the number-one pediatrician-approved way to detect problems in infants, because it’s non-invasive while still being incredibly accurate. An MRI also means not exposing baby to iodizing radiation. In fact, MR Imaging has no noted side effects. Even at durations of 30-90 minutes, it is considered biologically harmless. It has been called one of the safest procedures in all of modern medicine.
And an MRI is 300-600 times more powerful than your everyday toy magnet. So: no worries!
Another concern that parents have is about small children swallowing magnets, and that’s actually something to worry about: in addition to obvious worries about choking, kids have been severely injured when they have swallowed multiple magnets at the same time. So while magnets are quite safe on the outside, it’s important to make sure they don’t wind up inside your child.
The toy industry and baby gear industry are well aware of these incidents, and have raised safety standards steeply as a result: the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has ruled that magnets that are small enough to be swallowed must have a flux index (strength) of 50 kG2mm2 or less – that is, they’re far weaker than the magnets that have caused injuries. Individual manufacturers have also stepped up their game to make sure that the magnets in their products are safely enclosed so they can’t be swallowed. A few examples:
- Tegu Blocks: On their website FAQ, asked if Tegu Blocks are safe, the company confidently says, “Yes Yes Yes. The magnets are hidden inside the blocks and are therefore not visible or accessible. This is thanks to the thoughtful toy design and quality toy manufacturing behind the Tegu concept. Safety, quality, and durability are of the utmost importance to Tegu. Our blocks boast a patent-pending solid hardwood construction which keeps the magnets inside.”
- Magnificent Baby: In their FAQ, they write, “Magnificent Baby’s magnetic fasteners are safely sewn into our garments and inaccessible to infants or their siblings. We know all about the hazards of children swallowing magnets and have taken precautions to prevent any swallowing accidents. The magnetic fasteners are stitched into our clothes between layers of fabric and would take serious tampering to remove.” So basically, unless your infant has figured out how to operate large scissors, you’ve got nothing to worry about.
- SmartMax building sets: SmartMax magnetic blocks are big and chunky so they can’t be swallowed, and built kid-tough, so they’re super-duper strong! The plastic that encloses the magnets is glued together and ultrasonically welded.
Since we don’t believe in carrying anything but the best products, our selection is full of brands that go the extra mile to make sure their magnetic products are safe for your child, but always exercise common sense! Keep an eye on age limits for magnetic toys, and do your own research. Also, keep in mind that toys meant for older kids can wind up in the hands of smaller children when you have multiple kids of different ages, so keep an eye out.
In conclusion: as long as they’re not swallowed, magnets aren’t dangerous, and they’re lots of fun and can make your life easier too! If you have any questions about the 4Moms high chair, Magnificent Baby line, Tegu Blocks, or anything else, feel free to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or ask the friendly folks in the green teeshirts at your local Magic Beans store!