What are the dangers of using neodymium magnets?

Written by joan whetzel
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What are the dangers of using neodymium magnets?
Neodymium magnets interfere with TV reception and medical equipment, erase tapes and credit cards, and can cause injuries. (Electra image by Pedro Nogueira from Fotolia.com)

Rare earth permanent magnets known as neodymium magnets boast the strongest known magnetic power. These magnets, used in industrial, medical and educational settings as well as for fashioning tools, contain the alloyed elements of boron, iron and neodymium. They are quite fragile, meaning they are susceptible to fracture and loss of magnetism when exposed to heat. They also pose health risks and damage magnetic media (computers, credit cards), and should be handled with care.

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Health Hazards

Many electronic devices remain unphased by magnets. However, some medical electronics don't have the ability to withstand magnetic fields. Neodymium's magnetic field has been known to interfere with certain pieces of medical equipment (e.g. pacemakers), which can be hazardous to the device as well as the patient. Swallowing neodymium may lead to the magnets being strongly attracted to each other inside the digestive system, causing a lethal blockage.


Neodymium's magnetic force increases with size. One neodymium could attract any loose metal objects (i.e. nails, knives), turning them into shrapnel hurled at a high rate of speed at anyone standing in the way. If one of these magnets were to attract another during handling, they could collide with such force as to break any bones unlucky enough to be caught between them.

Magnetic Media Disruption

Neodymium magnets are strong enough to erase magnetic recording media. Floppy disks and VHS tapes can have their entire contents wiped out at a proximity of a foot or less to the magnet. Credit card magnetic strips can have all their information erased. In both cases, the information is lost for good; it cannot be recovered. Television screens' colour images become permanently distorted when exposed to neodymium.

Shattering and Fires

Neodymium magnets work well at low temperatures, but when heated up, their magnetic field decreases and they become more fragile. If they become hot they may catch on fire. Neodymium magnets may fracture if dropped and break apart with enough force that their pieces become sharp on impact.

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