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Jupiter parents issue warning about magnetic toys

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Posted at 4:10 PM, Jan 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-11 09:41:56-05

You may have seen magnetic balls in someone’s home or even received one as a holiday present.

They are mainly marketed to adults but children can easily grab them and accidentally swallow one or more.

One Jupiter family could have lost their son and they have a warning to other parents about the toys.

The Mariner family had a very busy holiday, starting with the Friday before Christmas when one-year-old Colt had the special opportunity to meet and be held by President Donald Trump at the airport -- but that night, things quickly changed.

“He had the best and potentially worst day of his two-year life," said Jason Mariner, Colt's father.

His parents had no idea that Colt accidentally swallowed toy magnetic balls.

"It was truly the scariest thing that we’ve ever been through," said Charlene Mariner, Colt's mother. “We felt very powerless, there was nothing that we could do."

The toy, which is normally marketed to adults, was a gift from friends.

“Playing around on the inside of the house, he opened up a drawer and found these magnetic balls," said Jason, who added that the family friends decided to give them to Colt since he enjoyed them so much.

The Mariners supervised Colt but because the toys are so small, Colt accidentally swallowed several balls without their knowledge. Neither parent understood how powerful the magnets were.

“There’s so many instances of kids being injured by these things, yet it’s not mainstream knowledge," said Jason.

Colt wasn’t throwing up but complained of pains. His parents rushed him to Palm Beach Children’s Hospital.

Doctors said it’s not uncommon for a child to accidentally swallow small objects but those tiny magnets can be incredibly deadly.

“They can be especially dangerous especially if you swallow two or more," said Dr. Jamie Marchand, a pediatric emergency doctor at St. Mary's Medical Center. “If there’s a tissue in between, the power is so strong that they will eventually erode through the wall of the intestine."

The X-rays shocked everyone. Doctors could see 20 magnetic balls inside his stomach.

“They had to remove six of them with a scope they had to put him under anesthesia,” said Jason.

Colt passed the other pieces naturally. Dr. Marchand said Colt was very lucky.

“And that’s usually a small percentage of cases but that could’ve been a case that proves fatal," he said, adding that the best prevention is to keep such magnetic toys away from children.

But with the easy accessibility of magnetic toys on the Internet, the family has hired an attorney to pursue legal action.

They are launching an investigation of their own to see if there is any way to better warn families of these toys containing rare earth magnets, which are more powerful than other types of magnets.

"The Mariner family and I want other parents to know this product poses a severe danger to children," said Michael Herman, the family attorney. "William W. Price, PA plans to take legal action against the manufacturers and sellers of this dangerous product on behalf of the Mariner family, with the hope the product will ultimately be removed from the market." 

The biggest manufacturer is Bucky Balls, which recalled the product and went out of business in 2014. You can still find the specific brand available for purchase online at various websites. Other companies have popped up with similar toys, which we easily found on Amazon.

“It's back on the market and now they’re marketed as an adult desk toy," said Jason. “There’s several toys on the market that have magnetic parts and these rare earth magnets. It just turns out that they’re incredibly dangerous."

The Mariners told me they just want other families to be aware of what could’ve happened to Colt and are thankful for the doctors at St. Mary’s who helped save their son’s life.

His second birthday is coming up in the next few weeks and the family's wish for his special day is actually to give back to the hospital. If you would like to bring a toy to donate, just email Jason@adzkinz.com.