Magnets are incredibly useful and fun, but they aren’t without their hazards. Please read the below advice before handling magnets and remember, safety first!
CUTTING OR DRILLING NEODYMIUM MAGNETS
Neodymium magnets can be secured in place with adhesive or with countersunk screws. Magnets are sintered and are therefore 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.
EFFECTS ON PEOPLE
Millions of people worldwide wear neodymium magnets to promote health and wellbeing. 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!
CRUSHING, BLOOD BLISTERS AND CUTS
When larger magnets are brought close enough together they can have a surprising amount of power. Fingers are quickly caught between them which can cause blood blisters or cuts. Wear gloves when handling larger magnets and always handle with care. Larger magnets (30 cm3+) can crush fingers and break bones.
MAGNETICALLY SENSITIVE ITEMS
Neodymium magnets are ten times stronger than ‘ordinary’ magnets. Keep a safe distance (at least 20cm) between the magnets and all objects that can be damaged by magnetism. 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.
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. 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.
SURFACE PLATING - WEARING AND CHIPPING
Our neodymium magnets are usually plated with a triple layer of protective plating - a layer of nickel, then a layer of copper and then a final layer of nickel. This plating can wear away in the course of normal use if it is sliding or impacting onto a hard surface such as steel. If the coating is worn away, then the magnet will be exposed to corrosion and since the magnets contain a high percentage of iron, they will rust easily. It is always better to use the magnet in a way that mechanically prevents it from ever touching the part that it is attracting. A mechanical stop which holds the magnet 0.2mm away from the attracted part will ensure a magnets life is extended.
DANGER OF BREAKING OR CHIPPING
Neodymium magnets are strong. 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. This 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.
DANGER FOR CHILDREN
Children should be supervised at all times when handling or playing with magnets and small children likely to swallow them should be kept away from them at all times.
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.
There is a general lack of understanding regarding how magnets can affect heart pacemakers.
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.
Read more about the fascinating magnet manufacturing process.