Magnetic putty toys

(Date: March 2018. Version: 1)

This factsheet has been written for members of the public by the UK Teratology Information Service (UKTIS). UKTIS is a not-for-profit organisation funded by Public Health England on behalf of UK Health Departments. UKTIS has been providing scientific information to health care providers since 1983 on the effects that medicines, recreational drugs and chemicals may have on the developing baby during pregnancy.

What are they?

Magnetic putty toys generally include a small cube magnet and a putty substance, sometimes alongside other objects such as stick-on eyes. One brand of magnetic putty toy in the UK has been found to contain high levels of arsenic and lead in the putty, both of which are potentially toxic. The magnetic cube in this brand is also stronger than is considered acceptable for children. Although not likely to be an issue for pregnant women, magnets of this strength present a potential hazard if swallowed with another magnet or metal object as these can stick together in the gut, causing blockage or damage. For more information about the magnetic putty brand about which concerns have been raised, please follow this link.

Will contact with magnetic putty in pregnancy harm my baby?

Reputable brands of magnetic putty are not known to pose a risk as they should have been tested to ensure that the putty does not contain toxic substances. Such products will have a CE mark on the packaging. Products where the manufacturer is not clearly indicated (which may be more likely to be sold via the internet or from market stalls) should be avoided as they may not go through safety and quality control checks and could contain harmful substances.

The information in this document is written for pregnant women who have handled, or swallowed the brand of magnetic putty for which safety concerns have been raised (see above).

Handling magnetic putty - Although no formal studies have been carried out in pregnant women,  lead or arsenic in putty typically would not easily pass through the skin. The amount of these substances entering the bloodstream and potentially reaching a baby in the womb, is therefore likely to be very low and unlikely to cause problems. No treatment or testing is needed in these circumstances, although women are advised to avoid any further handling of the putty as a precaution. In the unlikely event that symptoms of lead or arsenic toxicity are experienced following exposure to magnetic putty, the affected person should seek medical help.

Symptoms of lead toxicity include abdominal pain, constipation, headache, tiredness, and tingling in the fingers and toes.

Symptoms of arsenic toxicity include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, dark urine, and confusion.

Swallowing magnetic putty (or a magnet) - If you have swallowed magnetic putty or a magnet, seek medical help immediately as you may need treatment to limit or prevent toxicity or other problems.

Will my baby need extra monitoring during pregnancy?

As part of their routine antenatal care most women will be offered a scan at around 20 weeks of pregnancy to look for birth defects and to check the baby’s growth.

Handling magnetic putty during pregnancy is unlikely to cause any problems that would require extra monitoring of your baby.  However, in the unlikely event of magnetic putty exposure causing lead or arsenic toxicity that has been confirmed by blood tests or expert assessment, additional monitoring to ensure that the baby is growing and developing as expected may be recommended. Further information on the possible effects on a developing baby of lead or arsenic toxicity in the mother may be obtained from UKTIS (via UK health professionals).

Are there any risks to my baby if the father has used magnetic putty?

We would not expect any increased risk to your baby if the father had contact with a magnetic putty toy before or around the time you became pregnant.

Who can I talk to if I have questions?

If you have any questions regarding the information in this leaflet please discuss them with your health care provider. They can access more detailed medical and scientific information from

General information 

Up to 1 out of every 5 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, and 1 in 40 babies are born with a birth defect. These are referred to as the background population risks.  They describe the chance of these events happening for any pregnancy before taking factors such as the mother’s health during pregnancy, her lifestyle, medicines she takes and the genetic make up of her and the baby’s father into account.

Medicines use in pregnancy

Most medicines used by the mother will cross the placenta and reach the baby. Sometimes this may have beneficial effects for the baby.  There are, however, some medicines that can harm a baby’s normal development.  How a medicine affects a baby may depend on the stage of pregnancy when the medicine is taken. If you are on regular medication you should discuss these effects with your doctor/health care team before becoming pregnant.

If a new medicine is suggested for you during pregnancy, please ensure the doctor or health care professional treating you is aware of your pregnancy.

When deciding whether or not to use a medicine in pregnancy you need to weigh up how the medicine might improve your and/or your unborn baby’s health against any possible problems that the drug may cause. Our bumps leaflets are written to provide you with a summary of what is known about use of a specific medicine in pregnancy so that you can decide together with your health care provider what is best for you and your baby.   

Every pregnancy is unique. The decision to start, stop, continue or change a prescribed medicine before or during pregnancy should be made in consultation with your health care provider. It is very helpful if you can record all your medication taken in pregnancy in your hand held maternity records.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to replace the individual care and advice of your health care provider. New information is continually becoming available. Whilst every effort will be made to ensure that this information is accurate and up to date at the time of publication, we cannot cover every eventuality and the information providers cannot be held responsible for any adverse outcomes following decisions made on the basis of this information. We strongly advise that printouts should NOT be kept for any length of time, or for “future reference” as they can rapidly become out of date.

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