Fatal attraction


Today the government banned the sale of NIB (neodymium-iron-boron) magnets.

Ban on the sale of high powered magnet sets

Consumer Affairs Minister Simon Bridges has announced a ban on the sale of sets of small high powered magnets that have caused serious injuries in New Zealand and at least one reported death in Australia.

“These magnets are harmless to play with but if swallowed can cause serious internal damage that can require major surgery,” says Mr Bridges.

If two or more of these magnets are ingested they can become joined up in the digestive system and the pressure they exert can cause serious inflammation and ulceration. Left untreated, this can quickly lead to major tissue damage, perforations and potentially infection sepsis and death.

“Because of their strength, older children have been known to use these magnets as mock jewellery, such as mouth or tongue studs. Young children swallow them out of natural curiosity.

“As a result children have been seriously harmed overseas, including many hospitalisations in the United States and Australia and the death of an 18-month-old in Queensland. In December a New Zealand toddler was admitted to Auckland’s Starship Hospital after ingesting some of the magnets. Officials are aware of at least two other serious cases here involving hospitalisation and surgery.

“Though these magnets tend to be marketed at adults as office toys and many brands carry strict safety warnings, it is clear from the cases here and overseas that they pose too great a risk to children.”

The Unsafe Goods Notice for these small powerful magnets will mean that from tomorrow no one will be allowed to import or sell these magnets in New Zealand. The notice is issued under section 31 of the Fair Trading Act 1986 and will be enforced by the New Zealand Customs Service at the border and the Commerce Commission in the marketplace.

Bridges reassures us.

The action I have taken will only apply to the sales of these magnets for personal or domestic use. This ban will not affect the use of this type of magnet in schools and universities for teaching purposes nor would it affect any industrial or commercial use of these magnets.


Imagine the sinking feeling in your stomach, caused not by ingestion of NIB magnets, but by receipt of a letter from the New Zealand Customs Service telling you that they have seized your magnets, and will destroy them, if you do not provide evidence that you imported them for non-personal use.

5 thoughts on “Fatal attraction”

  1. Ok, NZ crossed the line with banning harmless stuff a long time ago (i.e. Peter Dunne) but this is a giant leap over the line. I can’t even rationalize any defense at all for Simon Bridge’s action. To increase safety, perhaps the government will sandpaper down anything that has a point on it. Good post!

  2. recently posted email to Simon Bridges:
    Hello Mr Bridges,

    I was curious as to the rationale behind your banning magnets in New Zealand. I understand that it is only a small amount of magnets, and will not effect commercial interests in NZ (for example). However, I believe that you have crossed the line here. It is tragic when people misuse a product, which results in harm or even death. However, it is up to the parents to educate about the harms of misusing a product, not the government to ban them. People die by abusing alcohol very frequently, yet that is not banned. Like the magnets, people can die accidentally from alcohol poisoning too, yet alcohol is one of NZ’s biggest sellers, domestically and through export. Probably more people have died abusing butane than magnets. I’m sure your notable skills as an MP could be put to better use than what you have done.

    Blake Carey

  3. It is a great letter.
    You should tweak it as a letter to Ed, and send it to the Papers Blake so that every one can contemplate it, and also to add pressure to the Minister.
    ‘What I want to know is how he can Ban things like this without putting it to parliament.
    Obviously Ministers have too much Independent power.

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