Three young girls in Nottingham city and the county have been admitted to hospital after swallowing the small magnetic parts designed to look like fake tongue piercings.
The three girls, all in their early teens, suffered with abdominal complications, two of them required major bowel surgery to remove the magnetic parts.
Public Health England (PHE) notified Trading Standards teams at both Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County Council of the cases, who are now warning young people and their parents not buy or use these magnetic fake piercings.
Both councils have also sent out letters to schools and headteachers to highlight the dangers of this new craze among children.
These fashion fake tongue piercings can consist of two strong magnetic parts – one placed on each side of the tongue to hold them in place, giving the impression of a real piercing. The other type is sold as “buckyballs,” which are designed to make shapes and structure and not intended to be placed in the mouth. Both products are easily available and can be bought online.
The magnetic parts can be small enough not to cause a real choking hazard if swallowed (even together) and if stuck together they can pass through the digestive system without complications. However if swallowed at separate times, the strength of magnetic attraction can cause serious physical damage to the bowel, resulting in the need for major surgery.
Cllr Toby Neal, Portfolio Holder for Community Protection, said: “It is really concerning that this is happening and we hope that these young girls recover quickly. Children are using these high powered magnets to mimic having a tongue piercing and they are not thinking about the dangers, which in some cases can be life threatening.
“We would ask parents and guardians to warn young people about the dangers of placing these products in their mouths and to seek urgent medical attention should these products be swallowed. These products are legal and our Trading Standards team cannot remove them from sale, however we feel they are dangerous and should be outlawed.”
Councillor Gordon Wheeler, Vice-Chairman of the Communities and Place Committee at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “Our thoughts are with the three girls hurt by these products and we wish them a speedy recovery from their ordeal. It’s vitally important that children and parents are made aware of the potentially deadly health risks that wearing these fake tongue piercings can pose.
“As the products have a legal status, our Trading Standards teams are powerless to act against any shops or websites that have them for sale. However, we are appealing to all responsible retailers to withdraw them from sale immediately and we are calling on MPs and the Government to ban these products at the earliest opportunity.