The use of magnets in several manufacturing fields has raised concerns about whether or not they are harmful. A simple answer to this is yes and no.
Magnets are only dangerous when handled inappropriately, and the danger increases with the strength of the magnet. If handled properly they do not pose any risk.
Dangers of Magnets
Neodymium magnets are the most powerful magnets, and so they are highly dangerous if not handled carefully. Their strength is ten times that of normal magnets. Below are some of the dangers caused by magnets:
- Injuries to internal organs as a result of swallowing. This is more prevalent among children and can be fatal if no quick action is taken. Swallowing more than one magnet can lead to blockage in the body, which could be life-threatening.
- The attraction of two magnets can cause pinching, which can result in serious injuries to the body, especially for powerful magnets. Powerful magnets have a very high attraction strength and can harm any part of the body that is placed between them.
- Certain devices, like pacemakers, can easily be damaged once they are in contact with magnets.
- Neodymium magnets are prone to chipping and shuttering when banged together. Shuttered parts can swiftly plunge into your eyes. As such, it’s always safe to have protective gear on when dealing with neodymium magnets.
- Whether in dust or powder form, neodymium magnets are extremely flammable. Even though they are difficult to drill or machine, it’s best to avoid both of these acts altogether.
Effects of Permanent Magnets on Electronics
Before, it was easier for magnets to damage electronic products. These include magnetic tapes, floppy disks, older televisions, credit cards, and video tapes, just to mention a few. Magnets can also interfere with the functioning of GPS devices, including magnetometers, which are widely used in aircraft navigation.
Not forgetting that magnets could also damage hard drives and result in the loss of data. The good news is that advancements made in modern electronics equip them with magnetic shielding, which prevents magnetic effects on components.
Different countries have put in place safety standards and regulations to help minimize the negative effects of magnets.
These standards are meant to protect both children and adults when handling magnets of any type. Here are some of them:
- ASTM F963-07: This is a toy safety standard meant to protect kids below the age of 14 years.
- RoHS Directive: RoHS is a standard mostly found on electronic devices. It regulates, or rather limits the use of harmful materials in electronic products, including harmful substances in magnetic objects.
- California Proposition 65: This regulation ensures that magnets containing toxic materials have warnings on them.
- SOR/2018-138 (Canada’s toy regulation for children below 14 years)
- AS/NZS ISO 8124.1 (Australia and New Zealand standards that regulate magnetic toys for children under 3years old.
- EN 71-1: This is a European Union safety standard regarding magnet ingestion among kids who are below the age of 14 years.
- EN 60404: The primary aim of EN 60404 is to analyze the properties of magnetic objects and ensure they are properly tested and classified.
Magnets, especially high-powered magnets, require extra caution when handling them to avoid injuries or damage. Here are some safety tips when handling such magnets:
- Be sure to have gloves and glasses on when handling magnets. This protects you from injuries caused by the small pieces that might shatter when handling them. Not to forget that very powerful magnets can fracture fingers if caught between them.
- Keep a safe distance with large magnets, preferably 3 feet. The main purpose of this is to avoid any continuous contact with the magnet.
- Avoid drilling or machining neodymium magnets. Neodymium magnet powder is highly flammable and emits toxic fumes when burned.
- Exercise extra caution when separating or working with magnets. It is much easier to separate a magnet by sliding it from the surface as compared to pulling it.
- Ensure there is a safe distance between your hands when using them to hold magnets.
- Be sure to keep neodymium magnets away from children and monitor them when handling any type of magnet. Children can easily swallow magnets, which can result in serious health injuries.
- Keep neodymium magnets away from electronic products to avoid damage. Ideally, a minimum distance of 3 feet should be enough to protect gadgets from the strong magnetic field.
- During storage, you can separate magnets using non-magnetic objects such as plastic sheets. Place the plastic sheets between the magnets to prevent them from attracting.
- Magnets should be kept away from children and pets, as they can be swallowed.
- Ensure that magnets are fully demagnetized before disposing of them.
- Dropping magnets or any form of impact on magnets could damage them.
Owing to the nature of magnets, transporting them might be quite tricky without proper measures in place.
Not only can magnets interfere with GPS devices but also compasses and magnetometers. For that reason, powerful rare earth magnets are restricted from air shipment.
How the magnets are packaged plays a significant role in ensuring safety during transportation. Normally, magnets are classified as dangerous goods when being transported owing to the risks associated with them.
When packaging magnets, you might want to observe the following:
- Ensure your magnets are packaged in huge boxes containing padding material. The magnets should be centrally positioned.
- You can add an iron plate to provide magnetic shielding.
- There should be ample space between the packaged magnet and the box to prevent a stronger magnetic field outside the box.
- Put magnets in packages to neutralize the magnetic field.
- Adhere to the rules set for transporting magnets via different mediums. Note that air transport has more strict rules that must be followed.
There are also storage cases designed to safely store and transport magnets.
From the data above, it’s clear that magnets are only dangerous if not handled with caution. Other than that, they come in handy in different applications.