Small high-powered magnets often used as office toys and jewellery have been permanently banned from sale because they can join up in the digestive system and cause serious internal damage when swallowed.

The magnets, which are up to 50 times stronger than conventional magnets of a similar size, have caused serious injuries here and at least one reported death of a toddler in Australia.

Known as “rare earth magnets”, they have already been banned in the US and Australia.

The permanent ban was made by Minister of Consumer Affairs Craig Foss and follows an interim 18-month ban on the magnets.

It requires anyone importing the magnets to provide the New Zealand Customs Service with documentation showing the magnets meet the relevant tests for size and strength set out in the prohibition notice.

The ban does not include hardware magnets, magnets used for teaching purposes by schools and universities or those intended to become part of another product.

What to do:

  • Parents who have “rare earth magnets” should make sure their young children cannot gain access to them.

  • Older children should be made aware of the risks involved, especially of using them as mock tongue studs.