Huffpost Healthy Living

Teen Swallows Rare-Earth Magnets, Undergoes Emergency Surgery

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BUCKYBALLS
A Florida teenager underwent emergency surgery after accidentally swallowing rare-earth magnets (sometimes sold as Buckyballs) at school last month. In this photo, Brandon Bruski, 9, holds dozens of Buckyballs on April 11, 2013 in Crystal Lake, Ill. In January, Brandon accidentally swallowed two balls from this set of the small magnetic desk toys. The magnets left Brandon with a small and large intestine bound together. Emergency surgery was required. | Chicago Tribune via Getty Images

Beware: Magnets can be extremely dangerous. One Florida teen learned the lesson firsthand after she accidentally swallowed rare-earth magnets at school last month.

Christin Rivas, 14, was rushed to the emergency room for an X-ray, but a doctor sent her home, telling Rivas' mother that the magnets would pass. Five days later, the teen underwent emergency surgery during which the magnets -- along with part of her colon and appendix -- were removed.

Now, Rivas is sharing her story in hopes of warning others of the danger playing with the magnets poses.

"I do feel it was one of those stupid kid moments," Rivas told ABC News. "I was going to the bathroom and I put them in my mouth because I didn't want to put them on the floor. I wasn't quite thinking. The kid on the other side said something that made me laugh and swallow them."

Unlike regular magnets, the six rare-earth magnets Rivas accidentally swallowed shortly before Thanksgiving are incredibly powerful. If multiple magnets are ingested, they can come together inside the body and cause great damage to the digestive system.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates the sale of products in the United States, likens the reaction to "a gun shot wound to the gut with no sign of entry or exit," according to a Huffington Post report published in October. The safety commission estimates that at least 1,700 children were taken to the ER between 2009 and 2011 for ingesting rare-earth magnets (sometimes sold as Buckyballs).

Earlier this year, 9-year-old Brandon Bruski also had to undergo emergency surgery after he swallowed two rare-earth magnets. The young boy wound up in the ER with sharp stomach cramps because his small and large intestines were bound together by magnetic attraction, The Chicago Tribune reports.

The number of children becoming injured from rare-earth magnets was partially a factor in the closure of Maxfield & Oberton Holdings -- the company that manufactured Buckyballs -- in late 2012. After the safety commission filed a rare complaint, demanding the company stop selling the dangerous product, Maxfield & Oberton opted to close up shop.

"Don't even think about touching them or buying them," Rivas told The Orlando Sentinel. "I messed up my intestines. I worry about that down the road."

While Rivas' advice to avoid rare-earth magnets entirely may seem a bit extreme, the instances of children becoming severely injured after swallowing the toys do serve as a warning.

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