Buckyballs in the shape of a cube. Photo from Wikimedia
A toddler swallowed 20 small but super-strong toy
magnets, then spent seven weeks in pain as they gripped each
other and eventually punctured his bowel.
New Zealand authorities had already been moving towards
banning adult desk toy Buckyballs, following similar
incidents and bans in the United States and Australia.
Seth Vagana (3) swallowed the Buckyballs, thinking they were
sweets, but it took seven weeks of cramps and vomiting before
anyone could figure out what was wrong with him.
Rather than being digested, the magnets grip together,
pinching soft tissue.
His mother, Lila, said her son started feeling ill during a
trip to Australia early last month.
''We thought it was because he'd been swimming and he'd
swallowed a lot of water and the pool was quite dirty. We
thought he'd caught a virus,'' Mrs Vagana said.
She took Seth to an emergency centre, where he was given
antibiotics and hydrolyte ice blocks.
But not long after they returned home to Avondale in
Auckland, Seth got sick again. Their doctor also thought it
was a virus.
'''He had a sore tummy and was vomiting and the stomach
cramps were making him walk hunched over, he was in so much
pain,'' Mrs Vagana said.
Twice more Mrs Vagana took Seth to her GP and Starship, where
he had a chest X-ray and blood and urine samples taken. None
gave any insight into what was wrong with him.
''It was quite scary. Nobody could work out what was going on
... he kept saying he had this pain right behind his belly
button,'' Mrs Vagana said.
''We could see him deteriorating in front of our eyes.''
Last Sunday, Seth walked over to his mother with a small
silver ball in his mouth and Mrs Vagana ''just clicked''.
Seth returned to Starship, and this time an X-ray was taken
of his stomach.
''They called me over and said, 'You'd better look at this'
and I just knew I was right. You could see a perfect bracelet
of these magnets in his bowel.''
Seth had emergency surgery to remove the Buckyballs, which
had pierced his bowel trying to get to each other.
Mrs Vagana said she wanted to warn other parents about the
dangers of Buckyballs and believes they should be banned.
The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment is now
writing advice for Consumer Affairs Minister Simon Bridges.
A spokeswoman for Mr Bridges said his intention was to issue
an unsafe notice for the product, to take immediate effect.
More than 200 children around the world have swallowed the
spheres and many have required surgery after ingesting more
They were banned in the United States and Australia this
Buckyballs are manufactured by American company Maxfield and
Oberton and are sold in New Zealand through websites.
Last Monday, the company announced it would stop making the
- Amelia Wade