CPSC Bans Buckyballs High-Powered Magnet Toys Citing Injured Children

The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) is taking action to ban the sale of Buckyballs high-powered magnet toys, stating the popular products pose a serious risk to children.  Yesterday, the agency announced it had filed a lawsuit against the maker of Buckyballs and Buckycubes toys after the company refused to voluntarily pull the magnet toys off the market.

According the CPSC, the Buckyballs high-powered magnet toys can cause serious, life-threatening internal injuries, including intestinal perforations, if two or more of the magnets are swallowed.   Since 2009, there have been dozens of reports of children, from toddlers to teens, swallowing tiny high-powered magnets.  At least a dozen incidents involved the magnets that make up the Buckyballs toy sets, some of which required surgery.

Some 175,000 Buckyballs sets, which can contain up to 216 small, high-powered magnets, were recalled in 2010 because they were labeled “Ages 13+”, while federal safety standards prohibit toys containing loose high-powered magnets from being sold to consumers under 14.  Last year, in cooperation with the CPSC, Maxfield & Oberton launched a campaign to inform consumers that the Buckyballs products are intended for use by adults only, but reports of ingestions have continued.  According to the Commission, it’s been in discussions with the company to pull the products off the market, but Maxfield & Oberton refused to cooperate.

The CPSC lawsuit alleges that Buckyballs present a “substantial product hazard” and that warnings are not working to address it. The lawsuit also charges that the packaging is defective because it is not childproof and it’s impossible for parents to tell if a magnet is missing.  The CPSC wants Maxfield & Oberton to stop importing and selling Buckyballs, refund consumers’ money and post a notice online stating that the product is defective.

Several retailers, including Amazon, Brookstone and Urban Outfitters, have already agreed to pull Buckyballs and similar products from their shelves.  Ebay is also taking steps to remove listings that sell such items, the CPSC said.

In a 2011 alert, the CPSC offered tips and advice on how parents and caregivers can prevent magnet ingestion by children, as well as advice for adults who have reason to believe a child has swallowed magnets:

  • Keep small magnets away from young children who might swallow the
  • Look out for loose magnet pieces, and regularly inspect toys and children’s play areas for missing or dislodged magnets
  • If you suspect that magnets have been swallowed, seek medical attention immediately
  • Look for abdominal symptoms, such as abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Note that in X rays multiple magnetic pieces may appear as a single object


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