The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is suing Maxfield & Oberton
Holdings LLC via an administrative complaint contending that the manufacturer’s
Buckycubes and Buckyballs desk toys contain a defect in design, warning,
packaging, and directions, which make them potentially harmful to people.
Meantime, several retailers, at the CPSC’s request, have voluntarily
agreed to cease selling both products and similar ones made by other manufacturers
following dozens of child and teen injuries, with many of these young
victims swallowing multiple magnets. Maxfield and Oberton is denying the
dangerous product allegations.
The administrative complaint comes after the company failed to come up with a voluntary recall plan that was to the CPSC’s satisfaction. This is just one of two complaints of this type that the Commission has submitted in 11 years. (The first time, in 2001, was when the agency sued Daisy Manufacturing in an attempt to pull its BB guns off the market.)
The small, round, powerful BB-size magnets are usually sold in sets of over 200. Generally considered an adult desk toy, there have been too many incidents involving kids under the age 14 swallowing the magnets.
The reason the toys are so dangerous is that when you have more than one magnet, they usually are drawn to each other. It’s fine when this happens outside the body, but inside, it can tear holes in the intestines and stomach and cause blood poisoning, other serious injuries, and even death.
The CPSC is aware of over two dozen incidents involving magnet ingestion since 2009. At least twelve of these incidents involved Buckyballs.
In November, the Gilbert Law Group reported on the CPSC’s issuing of a warning to keep kids away from these and other similar magnets. Aside from accidental swallowing, these tiny magnets are small enough to inhale. Some of the children have had to undergo surgery to get the magnets removed. One toddler, age 3, swallowed so many magnets–37 of them–earlier this year, that they came together in her stomach to form a large circle in the shape of a pearl necklace.
Over 200,000 Buckycubes and 2 million Buckyball sets were sold in the US between 2009 and 2011. In 2010, Maxfield & Oberton Holdings voluntarily recalled 175,000 Buckyball sets, per the CPSC’s request. The agency was concerned because the products were labeled for kids ages 13 and above even though federal rules don’t allow loose magnets for products sold to kids under the age of 14.
Even with this change, in addition to warnings in five areas on its packaging cautioning that the products aren’t for kids and a Web site providing educational information about how to use magnets safely, the CPSC said that it continued getting reports about kids getting hurt. It also expressed concern that once the products are out of their carrying cases, the warnings are no longer visible to users–especially kids.
Read the Administrative Complaint (PDF)
Buckyballs magnets targeted by federal suit, citing dangers for children, The Washington Post, July 25, 2012