August 20, 2018

CSPC Issues Final Rule on Hazardous Buckyball-like Magnets

The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted on a final rule today to address hazards posed to children by high-powered magnets. The vote was 4-0 to issue the rule. These products are bb-shaped smooth balls or cubes, such as Buckyballs and other products, that connect with a powerful magnetic bond.

BuckyballsMany of these high powered magnets were recalled in 2010. In November 2011, CPCS issued a safety warning to consumers about these products. Injuries were still occurring, even though the products were supposed to be sold only to children over the age of 14. CPSC negotiated voluntary plans with all but three of the magnet set importers. Two importers did not agree to stop selling the magnets and another resumed selling them; two of these companies later reached a settlement with CPSC. A voluntary recall was announced by the CSPC in 2013 and again in 2014, when consumers were told to stop using Buckyballs and Buckycubes immediately.

When these types of high power magnets are swallowed, they do not lose their magnetic charge. They bind together in the stomach, intestines, and colon, and can create small holes in the tissue along with intestinal blockages. They can also cause blood poisoning. Older children use them as “fake” facial piercings. They can then be easily swallowed or inhaled.

In 2013, a 19 month old toddler ingested seven magnetic balls. They attached to each other in her intestines, perforating the bowel and causing blood poisoning; she later died of ischemic bowel. One of the problems with this product is that early symptoms of magnet swallowing mimic other illnesses so diagnosis is difficult. About 2,900 possible magnet set ingestions occurred in the U.S. from January 2009 through December 2013 that required an emergency visit.

The rule changes the types of magnets available. Magnet sets containing magnets that fit in the small parts test fixture must have a flux index of 50 kG2 mm2 or less.

Rachel Weintraub, senior counsel with Consumer Federation of America said in a statement, “we applaud the CPSC for issuing this important mandatory rule. High powered magnets have caused serious injuries and a fatality. These incidents should not happen and can be prevented if the magnets can’t be swallowed and the magnets are not as strong.”

Attorney Eric Hageman has represented injured children and their families in lawsuits against the makers of these products. He said, “our lawsuits on behalf of injured children have both compensated the children and their parents. These magnets are dangerous products. Our clients have had serious injuries and all of them have needed surgery to remove the magnets and, in some cases, sections of the intestine.”

And Dr. James M. Perrin, American Academy of Pediatrics President said in a statement, “as pediatricians, our number one goal is to keep children safe. The powerful, tiny magnets contained in these toys and other similar products have caused unnecessary surgeries, debilitating injuries, irreversible gastrointestinal damage and other lifelong health impacts in infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatricians have been ringing an alarm bell about these products since we first recognized the damage they cause.”

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