Beware of Buckyballs

In its annual “Trouble in Toyland” report, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), has named the toys it found to be most dangerous to children. The magnet toy, Buckyballs, not surprisingly, was among those listed.

In addition to Buckyballs, the group also listed a Dora the Explorer guitar and dragster cars with tiny wheels, said Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). The group reviewed more than 200 toys that can be found on toy store shelves in dollar stores and at major retailers. Of those, about 12 were found to be potentially dangerous to children.

The Dora guitar was too loud, testing slightly higher than the recommended limit, while the dragster car’s wheels are constructed with small rubber traction bands that presented a potential choking hazard. The car’s warning was also considered “too tiny,” noted MPR.

We recently wrote that the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) began the process to set new federal standards for the small, high-powered magnet toy sets.  The Commission’s 4-to-0 vote to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking came as CPSC staff estimated that small, high powered magnet sets were associated with 1,700 emergency room-treated injuries between 2009 and 2011, most of which occurred in children between the ages of 4 and 12.

If swallowed, these magnets can link together inside a child’s intestines and clamp onto bodily tissue, causing intestinal obstructions, perforations, sepsis, and death; internal damage from these magnets can pose serious lifelong health effects. According to the CPSC, high-powered magnet sets are sold as sculptures, puzzles, and stress relievers marketed to adults. The dangerous magnets have a strong appeal to children and pose a potential for high-severity injuries.

The notice of proposed rulemaking follows two lawsuits the Commission previously filed seeking to have Buckyballs and Buckycubes magnet toys and Zen Magnet Rare Earth Magnet Balls toy sets removed from the market. As we reported previously, 11 manufacturers and/or importers of similar magnet sets voluntarily agreed to the CPSC request to stop their manufacture, import, distribution, and sale. Zen Magnets and Maxfield & Oberton, the maker of Buckyballs, are the only companies that refused to comply. Both companies vowed to fight the CPSC’s lawsuits.

Maxfield, noted MPR, has long argued that its toys are for adults, marketed to adults, and carry clear warning labels; however, Maxfield but did recently announce that it would cease manufacturing the Buckyball series.

This summer, Health Canada issued a warning to Canadians regarding the danger associated with high-powered magnet toys likely Buckyballs and Zen Magnet Rare Earth Magnet Balls toy sets.

According to Health Canada, toys like Buckyballs are “a recognized health hazard to children of all ages” that should be kept away from children.

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