WASHINGTON, D.C. –Two weeks after U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to protect children from potentially fatal high-powered magnets, the CPSC has moved to ban the sale of these toys, known as “Buckyballs.” After children’s hospitals in Ohio—including those in Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati—reported to Brown that they are treating more and more children who have swallowed harmful and potentially fatal high-powered magnets, Brown urged the CSPC to warn parents about the magnets. The shiny, round magnets may look like candy to children, but swallowing two or more can cause serious internal injuries or even death in children.
“Any ‘toy’ that can so easily cause grave internal harm or even death should not be on the shelves for parents to purchase. Despite label warnings, many children mistook these high-powered magnets for candy, and unwittingly inflicted serious damage to their stomach and intestines,” Brown said. “The Consumer Product Safety Commission has done the right thing by moving quickly to ban Buckyballs from store shelves. Consumers with children that have already purchased these desk toys should dispose of them immediately and contact the company for a refund.”
“I support a ban of this product," said Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "Not only are Buckyballs potential choking hazards but, most importantly, they are made of an extremely powerful magnetic substance that can cause serious injury and even death if swallowed.”
The CPSC banned the sale of the magnets in children’s toys in 2007, but they remained available for purchase as “adult desk toys.” According to Reuters, Maxfield and Oberton—the maker of Buckyballs—must cease importation and distribution of the magnets and issue refunds to consumers. The company must also tell retailers to stop distributing the toys.
“From the CPSC’s own report, incidences of children ingesting the high-powered magnets are increasing. Clearly, the CPSC’s banning the use of these magnets in children’s’ toys has proven insufficient. I urge your agency to take swift action to take appropriate steps, including considering banning the sale these magnets, before more infants and children suffer permanent intestinal damage or death,” Brown wrote in the letter to the CPSC earlier this month.
The full text of the letter is below.
Ms. Inez Moore Tenenbaum
Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East-West Highway
Bethesda, Maryland 20814
Dear Ms. Tenenbaum:
Given the risk they post in the hands of children, I am writing to urge the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) to take immediate action to warn parents about round, high-powered magnets being sold as “adult desk toys.”
These magnets are small, shiny, and often colorful, making them attractive to children. Sold in packets of 100 or more, they are easy for adults to lose track of or misplace. While marketed to individuals older than 14 years of age, too many young children are swallowing these high-powered magnets. Parental supervision is essential, but the danger posed by these magnets is markedly different than other small objects children swallow. Due to the strength of these “rare earth” magnets, when children swallow more than one, they attract to one another inside of a child’s body, and can perforate children’s stomachs, tear through intestines, rip the bowel, and damage other organs as magnets connect to one another. The result is that too many children who have ingested these magnets have required multiple surgeries while other children have died.
According to analysis of CPSC data, the average age of children ingesting round, high-powered, “rare earth” magnets is seven years old. Two-thirds of children ingesting these magnets require medical attention. More concerning still, 45 percent of reported cases required surgery. Reports of injuries to CPSC or SaferProducts.gov include a four year old boy who now has “permanent, massive damage” to his intestines and stomach, an 18 month old male who need to have 9 inches of intestines removed, and dozens of other infants, children, and teens who required medical attention.
The CPSC, in 2007, halted the sale of these rare-earth magnets to children as well as their inclusion in children’s toys. Yet, the risk of harm persists and these high-powered magnets remain dangerous. Several medical organizations – the American Academy of Pediatrics and the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition – have expressed grave concern about the hazards presented to children by these magnets. In Columbus, Ohio, Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s and it’s Center for Injury Research and Policy is monitoring and treating injuries due to these magnets.
From the CPSC’s own report, incidences of children ingesting the high-powered magnets are increasing. Clearly, the CPSC’s banning the use of these magnets in children’s’ toys has proven insufficient. I urge your agency to take swift action to take appropriate steps, including considering banning the sale these magnets, before more infants and children suffer permanent intestinal damage or death.