In an unusual move, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recently filed an administrative complaint, asking the makers of rare-earth magnets to voluntarily recall their products. A few of the companies, including the makers of Buckyballs and Zen Magnets, have refused to do so. The CPSC also asked the company behind Buckyballs, Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, to tell the public about the safety concerns and to offer requesting customers a refund.
In total, the agency asked 12 other manufacturers of rare-earth magnets to hold a voluntary recall of their products and to stop sales - 11 of those companies have complied, while Buckyballs and Zen Magnets have refused. The CPSC is also concerned that the packaging, labeling and warnings are ineffective for Zen Magnets.
Although these products are marketed to adults to be used in an office environment, there have been many cases of harm caused to children. These very powerful magnets can do serious damage to a child who ingests them accidentally. If more than one magnet is ingested, they can attract inside the body, causing potentially life-threatening consequences. In such cases, the magnets can "cause blockages, tissue damage and even perforation."
Estimates indicate 1,700 incidents have occurred in which rare-earth magnets have been swallowed by children who then required emergency room care. In some cases, this care included surgery. These incidents have occurred in the last three years, since January 2009. It is unclear how many were caused by Buckyballs directly, but the head of the company stated 2.5 million sets of the magnets have been sold and 12 swallowing incidents have occurred.
When a child is injured by a consumer product, it may be possible to seek legal action against the manufacturer. Consulting with a skilled personal injury attorney can ensure the injured party's rights are protected.
Source: The New York Times, "For Buckyballs Toys, Child Safety Is a Growing Issue," Andrew Martin, August 16, 2012.
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