August 6, 2012 — Recently, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) filed a lawsuit against 11 magnet toy manufacturers in order to ban the products. Some of the manufacturers have refused to comply or launched advertising campaigns decrying the CPSC’s decision. Zen Magnets company officials say they will not cooperate, and this is an “unfair ban on all small magnets.” Zen Magnets, Buckyballs, and other high-powered magnet desk toys will no longer be sold in stores.
Zen Magnets has created a petition and a website, www.savemagnets.com. Maxfield & Oberton, the manufacturer of Buckyballs, created a website called “Save Our Balls” and created a video urging their customers to protest the CPSC’s action.
The companies call the CPSC action unfair, because many other products with known hazards are allowed to be sold with warnings — including fireworks, balloons, and button batteries. The magnet toys already carry prominent warnings on the boxes and are only marketed toward adults.
The CPSC is standing firm with their decision, however. The CPSC has taken increasingly aggressive action against magnet toys for the last several years, including forcing recalls of certain products and publishing safety warnings in an attempt to increase public awareness. Magnet toy companies have complied with the agency’s request to place prominent warnings on the box.
The warnings highlight the dangers of swallowing magnet toys. If two or more magnets are swallowed, they can attach to one another, sometimes with tissue between the high-powered magnets. This can cause perforation of the intestines or stomach, which could cause sepsis, blood poisoning, or other life-threatening injury.
The CPSC has already received dozens of reports of children or teenagers swallowing the magnets. Many of the children have required emergency abdominal surgery to remove the magnets. Buckyballs were involved in about half of the incidents.
CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said, “We are not going to wait for a death to happen.” He described the internal injuries “like a gunshot wound to the gut with no sign of entry or exit.”
The CPSC issued the recall because they were concerned that no amount of warnings or public safety announcements could prevent the injuries. The small, shiny, clicking magnet toys are intensely attractive to small children. Once the product is taken out of the box, the warnings are discarded. Many of the products contain hundreds of small magnets, making it nearly impossible for a parent to ensure they are not missing some of the magnets. The agency concluded that misuse and injuries are inevitable.
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