Federal safety regulators have filed suit against the maker of Buckyballs and Buckycubes magnetic toys, after Maxfield and Oberton Holdings of New York refused to stop selling the dangerous toys. The effort to ban Buckyballs and Buckycubes magnetic toys marks the first time in 11 years that the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a stop sale order for a hazardous product.
Buckyballs and Buckycubes are small, powerful rare earth magnets that are sold as toys and desktop accessories. The CPSC is seeking to ban the sale of the magnet toys after dozens of young children and teenagers swallowed multiple magnets, which connected inside their gastrointestinal tracts and caused internal injuries requiring surgery. According to the CPSC, since 2009 there have been at least two dozen ingestion incidents, with at least one dozen involving Buckyballs. Just this past March, a 3-year-old girl sustained three holes in her lower intestine and one in her stomach after swallowing 37 high-powered Buckyballs magnets. In a January 2011 incident, a 4-year-old boy had his intestine perforated after he swallowed three magnets he thought were chocolate candy.
The CPSC says it has also has received reports of toddlers finding loose magnets left within reach and placing them in their mouths. In some of the reported incidents, toddlers have accessed loose magnets left on a refrigerator and other parts of the home. In addition, use of the magnet toys by tweens and teenagers to mimic tongue, lip or cheek piercings has resulted in incidents where the product is unintentionally inhaled and swallowed, the Commission said.
In 2010, Maxfield & Oberton cooperated with the CPSC in recalling 175,000 Buckyball high magnet toys sets. The sets were labeled “Ages 13+” in violation of a federal safety standard that prohibits the sale of powerful “loose as received” magnets to children younger than 14. In 2011, the company and the CPSC worked to ensure that consumers understood that Buckyballs were intended for adult use only, but even after that effort, ingestions continued to occur. The CPSC lawsuit alleges that it has concluded that despite the attempts to warn purchasers, warnings and education are ineffective and cannot prevent injuries and incidents associated with the Buckyballs magnet toys.
In June, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, urged the CPSC to ban the sale of all high-powered magnet products.
“This is a good first step to help prevent these dangerous magnets from ending up in hands and mouths of children,” Gillibrand said yesterday. “Every parent wants to keep their child safe and this unsuspecting product has already caused too much harm and put too many children’s lives at grave risk. We must take further action to stop these dangerous toys from reaching any more homes and stores.”
According to a report from The Washington Post, the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition has voiced support for the CPSC action, citing an increase in magnet ingestion among children and teens.
Maria Oliva-Hemker, chief of the pediatric gastroenterology division at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, told the Post that some children have lost large sections of their small bowel after swallowing high-powered magnets.
“We know of cases . . . where you can have an entire string of these magnets hooking together in the intestines,” she said.
According to the CPSC, more than 2 million Buckyball sets and 200,000 Buckycubes have been sold in the U.S. since 2009 and 2011. In response to a request from the Commission, a number of retailers have already voluntarily agreed to stop selling Buckyballs, Buckycubes, and similar magnet toys manufactured by other companies. The online retailer eBay has also agreed to implement steps to remove listings by sellers for these products, the Commission said.