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Health and Safety Information

MAGNET SAFETY

Magnets are incredibly useful and fun, but they aren’t without their hazards. All our magnets are tested and each product is clearly labelled with its pull-strength here on our website, plus, a warning brochure is included with strong magnets. Please read the below advice before handling magnets and remember, safety first!

Place two magnets close to each other, even small ones, and they will attract, leap towards each other with great acceleration and then slam together. Many of the magnets we supply are made from neodymium; this means they are among the strongest magnets in the world and the force at which they attract to steel and each other can cause serious injury if necessary safety precautions are not followed. It is easy to get caught out by magnets and lack of concentration is the single biggest cause of injury when handling magnets.

  • Always wear safety goggles when handling large magnets.
  • Always wear gloves when handling magnets to prevent pinching.
  • Children should NEVER be allowed to play with NEODYMIUM magnets.
  • Keep magnets at least 20cm away from sensitive electronic and storage devices.

Children

Children should NEVER be allowed to play with NEODYMIUM magnets. Even relatively small magnets can cause blood blisters and cuts and tiny magnets can cause serious injury if swallowed.

If more than one magnet is swallowed, they can attract each other through the walls of the intestines, get stuck and pinch the digestive tract causing major swelling and even life-threatening injuries requiring surgery. Always keep all neodymium magnets out of the reach of children.

Crushing, cuts and blisters

Fingers can quickly become caught between magnets causing blood blisters or cuts. Wear gloves when handling larger magnets and always handle with care. Larger magnets (30 cm3+) can easily crush fingers and break bones.

Breaking and chipping

Magnets slamming together is the most common cause of broken magnets and it is possible that one or both magnets could chip or shatter. Due to the force exerted by the magnets, it is possible that chips may fly off at high speed into someone's eye, therefore we advise that when handling more than one neodymium magnet that you wear eye protection. Chips and broken magnets can also be quite sharp, so treat them as carefully as you would broken glass.

Electronics

Always keep a safe distance (at least 10cm) between magnets and all objects that can be damaged by magnetism and remember, neodymium magnets are ten times stronger than ‘ordinary’ magnets! Items such as mechanical watches, heart pacemakers, CRT monitors and televisions, credit cards, diskettes and other magnetically stored media such as video tapes are all affected by powerful magnets.

Separating

It is five times easier to slide a magnet from a ferrous surface than pull it off vertically. Small magnets can usually be separated by hand by sliding one from the other using a sideways motion. If you are unable to do this with your hands alone then a good tactic is to place the two magnets overhanging the edge of a desk or table and slide one vertically downwards. Once separated, keep the free magnet moving away until a safe distance from the other(s) to avoid them snapping back together.

For really large magnets you will need a device known as a magnet splitter or separator jig. These devices come in various forms but the component which is consistent across all designs is a non-magnetic handle which is used to push one magnet from the other. For more advice about how to separate magnets, please read our 'how to separate magnets safely' article.

The raw materials that our magnets are made from are not detrimental to peoples’ health. However, it is important to recognise that magnets can have a dangerous effect on medical implants such as pacemakers. Also, it is quite common for some people to suffer nickel allergies, usually triggered by wearing of jewellery. As most of our neodymium magnets are coated with nickel, we offer the below advice.

Pacemakers

There is a general lack of understanding regarding how magnets can affect heart pacemakers and implanted heart defibrillators.

At first4magnets.com we sought advice from a specialist and the following information represents our best knowledge regarding how heart pacemakers are affected by magnets.

Lindsay Grant (BSc CEng FIET CSci FIPEM ARCP) is a Consultant Clinical Scientist and Head of the Clinical Engineering Department of Medical Physics & Bioengineering at the Royal United Hospital.

Lindsay kindly gave us this advice: “The operation of heart pacemakers will be affected by the close proximity of a magnet. Magnets can set a pacemaker working in a way that is not suitable for the pacemaker user and that might affect their health. This change will stop when the magnet is removed.”

She added: “The background to this is that magnets are used to put pacemakers into a mode of working that does not respond to the patient's own heart rhythm. We regularly use magnets in our pacemaker clinics to change the working of the pacemaker, to see how it is operating. Each pacemaker manufacturer uses the 'magnet response' of a pacemaker in a different way, so it is impossible to be more precise than the above statement.

“Some manufacturers have a response that makes the pacemaker pace the heart at 100 beats-per-minute or faster. The pacemaker will not usually synchronise with the natural heart beat when a magnet is applied. Although in 20 years’ experience of putting magnets on pacemakers, I have never had a problem, it is theoretically possible to trigger a life threatening heart rhythm by doing so.”

First4magnets.com thank Lindsay for this clear and valuable advice.

Allergies

Our neodymium magnets are nickel-plated. Nickel is a metal which can cause an allergic reaction in some people who are exposed to long-term contact with objects that release nickel and in most cases, these allergic reactions are triggered by jewellery containing nickel. As a precaution, avoid long-term contact with nickel-plated magnets and totally avoid contact with nickel-plated materials if you already have a nickel allergy. How much or little it takes to trigger a nickel allergy is debatable and changes from person to person.

Medical benefits

Millions of people worldwide wear neodymium magnets to promote health and well-being. We have found no evidence at all of detrimental effects of neodymium magnets on people or animals – many people actually believe that magnets improve health and accelerate healing!

Magnets can’t just be stuck in an envelope and popped in the post box, for one, they would stick to the inside of the post box! At first4magnets.com we take great care in packaging all of our products; if you intend to re-distribute or post our products you should follow this advice.

Packaging

Magnets, particularly strong neodymium magnets, need to be packaged so that they do not get stuck to steel objects. This means that magnets should be packed in sturdy cardboard boxes and kept as far away from the sides of the box as possible using soft packing. The magnetic field outside of the packaging should be so weak that it doesn’t interfere with sorting equipment.

At first4magnets.com the majority of our magnets are distributed via Royal Mail who stipulate that the magnetised material should have a magnetic field strength of less than 0.159A/m at a distance of 2.1m from the outside of the package and each package should include soft packing material at least 2cm thick around each item.

At first4magnets.com, when shipping our items by air we always follow the International Air Transport Association’s ‘Dangerous Goods Regulations’, which stipulate that a package containing magnets must measure less than 0.00525 gauss at a distance of 15 feet from the package. Improperly or insufficiently packaged magnets can interfere with aeroplane navigation systems. If you plan to redistribute magnets by air always package items with sufficient shielding and refer to the appropriate regulations.

Keepering

Some of our magnets are supplied with ‘keepers’. Keepers are pieces of ferrous metal that are used to close a magnetic circuit, for example, between two poles of a horseshoe magnet. By including a keeper that is attached to both poles of a magnet it means that all of the magnetic field is maintained within the circuit and none is emitted by the package.

Our magnets find their way into thousands of different applications, from industrial machinery to fridge magnets. If you are intending to use our magnets for a project, experiment or technical application then you may find the following advice useful.

Wearing and chipping

Many of our magnets are supplied with a particular coating, for example, most of our neodymium products are plated with a triple layer of protective plating - a layer of nickel, then a layer of copper and then a final layer of nickel. Plating can wear away in the course of normal use if a magnet is sliding or impacting onto a hard surface such as steel. If the coating is worn away, then the magnet can be exposed to corrosion and, for example, since neodymium magnets contain a high percentage of iron, they will rust easily. It is always better to use magnets in a way that mechanically prevents them from ever touching the part that they are attracting. A mechanical stop which holds the magnet 0.2mm away from the attracted part will ensure a magnet’s life is extended.

Machining and drilling

Magnets can be secured in place with adhesive or with countersunk screws. As most are sintered they are extremely hard and brittle; you should never attempt to cut or drill into a magnet unless using diamond tooling and coolant as the dust can be highly flammable.

Magnets purchased from first4magnets.com should always be disposed of carefully and in accordance with the Special Waste Regulations (1996). Under no circumstances should magnetic material be disposed into watercourses and if disposing of large amounts, only licensed waste management contractors should be used.

If you have any concerns or enquiries about our products, please do not hesitate to call us on 01777 874520 or email us at sales@first4magnets.com.

Stay safe and keep magnets fun!

Every magnet we supply comes with its own safe handling information card; please refer to this before handling any magnets. If you want to find out more about the safe handling of magnets you can download an electronic version of all our safety cards below.