Magnetix Building Set Toy Still in Stores Despite Injuring Hundreds of ChildrenJul 17, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
Magnetix Building Sets, a popular toy that can cause gruesome, and sometimes fatal, injuries to children who swallow the magnets, are still being sold. These dangerous magnetic toys are still on store shelves even after two Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalls, a fact that has led many to question the commitment of the toy’s maker, MEGA Brands, to product safety.
Magnetix Building Sets were first marketed in 2003 by Rose Art Industries of Livingston, New Jersey. MEGA Brands acquired Rose Art in 2006 and continued to sell Magnetix. The building sets are composed of small, colorful plastics rods with powerful micromagnets at each end. When children join the rods together at the magnet ends, they can build just about anything. The toy has been a top seller almost from the time it first came on the market.
Unfortunately, the housing around the magnets did not always hold up, and the magnets often came loose. As early as 2003, reports started to come into the CPSC of children who had been seriously injured after they swallowed the loose magnets. Because the tiny magnets are so strong, if a victim swallowed more than one magnet, the objects would be attracted to each other while in the intestinal tract. As a result, the magnets would clump together, causing the intestines to twist. This often led to intestinal blockages, bowel perforations and even death. By the time the CPSC issued its first Magnetix recall in 2006, it had received 34 reports of injuries related to the toy. One of them involved a 20-month old child who died as the result of an intestinal blockage. The recall was only aimed at toys purchased for children under the age of 6. MEGA Brands continued to sell the product, but with a new label warning about the swallowing hazard.
In April 2007, the CPSC expanded the recall to include all Magnetix sets sold before March 2006. By then, injury reports had reached 1,500. The commission had also received reports that even older children were swallowing the magnets – usually on a dare – and being injured. According to a recent New York Times article, MEGA Brands has not been cooperative in getting its products away from children. Even as the two recalls were in effect, the company was slow to answer the CPSC's requests for information. Records show that the company violated the terms of the recall and as a result, dangerous toys were allowed to remain on store shelves long after they were recalled. A spokesperson for MEGA Brands even told the New York Times that the company has no idea how many Magnetix sets were sold prior to the recalls, although they estimate that the number is in the millions. As a result, it is unknown how many defective sets are still out there.
MEGA Brands continues to market Magnetix toys, saying that it has redesigned the product to insure that the magnets do not come loose. The company contends that the problem with the toy is a small-parts issue, and has included labeling warning that the building sets should not be given to children under six. Considering that sales of Magnetix netted the company $100 million dollars in revenue last year, it is not surprising that MEGA Brands has resisted calls to discontinue the sale of this dangerous toy.