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CPSC Continues Crackdown on High-Powered Magnet Toys

Aug 8, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP

Federal consumer safety officials have asked another company which markets desktop magnetic “curiosity products” marketed to adults to remove their products from the market because the tiny, high-powered magnets that make up these products pose serious injury risks to children.

According to an Associated Press report this week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has contacted Zen Magnets, a Colorado importer that markets “desktop toys” marketed to adults that feature numerous small and high-powered magnets. The magnets can be manipulated into different shapes and their popularity has increased dramatically in recent years.

In the last two weeks, the CPSC has also contacted the makers of Buckyballs, a similar and more high-profile product, and made a similar request, to stop marketing these products altogether. Officials with the agency have identified at least a dozen children who’ve suffered serious injuries after ingesting some of the small magnets used in these products when they become dislodged from the toy.

Seeing as they are marketed mostly as “toys” but for adults, they are still likely to end up in the hands of children and safety officials believe they pose serious risks of injuries and should be removed from the market entirely. Zen Magnets, on its Web site, specifically indicates its products are not toys but “curiosity” items.

While the agency typically tries to work with a company to revise or recall a product it considers dangerous, CPSC has decided to take an almost unprecedented step in all but ordering select makers of these products to remove them.

If some of the magnets do break away from the toy product, they could easily be ingested by children. Small and powerful magnets, once they’re swallowed, could cause any number of serious injuries and possible death. Immediate surgery is often required to remove the magnets before they’re allowed to travel too far into the body. If multiple magnets are swallowed, it takes just two to fuse on either side of an organ like the intestinal tract to cause damage, potentially leading to perforation, tears, infection, inflammation, and chronic pain.

Like the makers of Buckyballs products, officials at Zen Magnets have promised to fight or not comply with the CPSC request, believing the agency is overzealous in its request. It believes it properly markets Zen Magnets products toward adults and includes adequate safety warnings regarding the potential dangers of the products, specifically to children.

CPSC believes Zen Magnets and the makers of Buckyballs are being defiant in refusing to take these products off the market. It said 11 other companies which manufacture or market products containing numerous small and powerful magnets have complied with a similar request. Both companies assert that none of the injury reports involving small magnets involved their products.

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