DENVER -- For kids who want to pretend their tongue, lip or ears is pierced, small magnets called BuckyBalls have become a popular toy, but more and more kids are accidentally swallowing these power magnets, sending several Denver kids to the hospital every year.
“That`s what everybody did. It was kind of like a peer pressure situation,” says Lauren Ulibery, now 14 years old.
Last year when Lauren was 13, she did what many kids her age are doing, pretending to have a tongue piercing by placing two BuckyBalls magnets on her tongue.
“I put those two in first, swallowed those, then I got another pair and I swallowed those, too,” she says.
In a week’s time, Lauren had accidentally swallowed four magnets.
“I didn`t know what to do because I was scared I knew something bad was going to happen.”
Lauren’s health was in serious trouble.
I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t breathe because it would hurt,” she adds.
Shortly after her mother, Andrea took her to the hospital, Lauren was rushed into surgery.
“One piece was stuck in the small bowel one piece had gotten through the large bowel and they hooked together,” says Dr Stephen Rothenberg, chief pediatric surgeon at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.
“They had to go in right away, take out the appendix and the magnets in her small intestine because it was starting to corrode and it was eat though the tissue in the small intestine,” says her mother Andrea.
“If you have a hole in your intestine and it`s not treated properly you could get severe infection that could be life threatening,” Dr Rothenberg says.
Lauren was in surgery for five hours. The procedure took its toll on her young body.
“She couldn`t eat for almost two weeks. She had a tube going from her nose to her stomach,” Andrea says.
Lauren was in the hospital for two weeks and missed a month of school.
Doctors say this type of injury is on the rise among Colorado kids.
“In the last two years we`ve seen three to four cases per year,” adds Dr. Rothenberg.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 14 cases were reported last year. That’s up from seven in 2010.
We asked the makers of BuckyBalls, Maxfield and Oberton about this growing danger and they gave us this statement:
Maxfield and Oberton's position on safety has not changed. Buckyballs are not toys. Buckyballs are not manufactured, promoted, labeled, or intended for children. Buckyballs are not sold in stores selling exclusively children's products and not to be sold in proximity to children's products in general use stores.
It is important that parents and retailers take our warnings seriously and not give Buckyballs to children.
CEO, Maxfield and Oberton
Although the warnings on the BuckyBalls box are clearly labeled, Andrea Ulibery and Dr. Rothenberg says that’s not good enough.
“I think they do need to be pulled from the shelf probably if not they need to come with very strict warnings about the dangers,” Dr. Rothenberg says.
Lauren and Andrea are cooperating with a Federal investigation to help pull these types of toys off store shelves.
If you think your child may have swallowed magnets call your doctor immediately.