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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
The magnets are marketed as the world's most popular desk toy. Buckyballs are sold to adults as stress relievers.
But to three-year-old Aurora Lewis, an active and inquisitive child, the shiny BB-sized pellets looked like candy.
"The thing about Aurora is she puts everything in her mouth. She's always been like that," her mother said.
Holly Lewis risks ridicule for not keeping the magnets away from her daughter. But she says what could have happened outweighs embarrassment.
Aurora swallowed the magnets and was rushed to emergency.
"They did an X-ray and they found thirteen," Holly said.
Jeremy King, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, explains the danger of ingesting the tiny spheres.
"Because of the strength of the magnets, if they're in different parts of the gastrointestinal tract, they will attract," he said.
The magnetic attraction is so powerful the balls bunch together and can tear openings in a child's organs.
"The longer these magnets stay in the intestines or the stomach the more damage they're going to cause," Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children pediatrician Dr. Jessica Kosut said.
Doctors say bleeding and blockages caused by the magnets can be fatal. The worst case in Hawaii was the first case. A boy ingested 19 Buckyballs.
"He required a major surgery with re-section of pieces of bowel and closure of other pieces of bowel," King said.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently sued to get Buckyballs off the market. But the company insists the magnets are meant for adults not kids, and packaging labels say it in writing.
Earlier this year, Buckyballs CEO Craig Zucker defended his business on CBS news.
"We have the most vigorous safety program in, not just our industry, but most industries," he said. "Of course, our concern for safety is the same as the Consumer Product Safety Commission. We just believe there's a different course of action that doesn't require banning the product."
Buckyballs stands by its warning system and continues to sell through its web site. The company also has a page on magnet safety.
"People still have them in homes, and that still serves as a potential risk," King said.
The thirteen magnets Aurora swallowed didn't get far, Fortunately, she didn't need surgery.
"Because it was within seven hours and it hadn't passed beyond the stomach, Dr. King was able to go in with his scope and retrieve all thirteen magnets," Kosut said.
King said adults should never have Buckyballs around their kids. If they do, they need to know the symptoms and signs of magnet ingestion.
"Abdominal pain, abdominal distension, vomiting and fever," he said.
"If you have any suspicion that your child may have ingested these magnets you should seek immediate medical attention and you should not delay," Kosut said.
Counting Aurora, over the last two years, eight children in Hawaii swallowed Buckyballs. They ranged in age from two to ten. All were treated successfully. The last two emergencies happened in May.
"It was very very scary. The most scared I've ever been as a parent," Holly Lewis said.
A single Buckyball can lift an object one thousand times its weight. Imagine what several can do to a child's insides. The company has sold more than two million sets of the magnets since 2009. If you've got one, keep it in the right hands.