Popular magnet toys discontinued over ‘legal badgering’
An x-ray shows a line of magnets inside a child’s intestine. At least 12 kids in the U.S. have torn their intestines after swallowing the powerful rare earth magnets.
Published Friday, November 16, 2012 6:00AM PST
The makers of Buckyballs and Buckcubes, popular office toys made up of tiny magnetic beads that can be molded into shapes, are discontinuing their products over "baseless and relentless legal badgering" from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The toys are tiny rare earth magnets you can shape into forms, and are hailed by makers Maxfield and Oberton as “the world’s best selling desk toy.”
But the U.S. CPSC sued the makers this summer over health risks to children. At least 12 kids have torn their intestines after swallowing the powerful magnets. Some children have been hospitalized and required surgery. Children often use the magnets to mimic tongue or ear piercings.
Maxfield and Oberton vowed to fight the suit, but now say it's shutting down production because of the ongoing legal battle. A limited number of the toys are still available through Buckyballs’ website, but no more will be produced after they sell out.
"That's right: We're sad to say that Balls and Cubes have a one-way ticket to the Land-of-Awesome-Stuff-You-Should-Have-Bought-When-You-Had-the-Chance,” a message on its website reads.
The commission isn't picking on Maxfield and Oberton. It actually named 13 magnet producers in its lawsuit, and 11 have voluntarily shut down production. Only the Buckyballs maker and Zen Magnets continued selling the toys.
The North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition said last month that warning labels on these magnets are not effective in keeping children away from them.
In a survey of more than 1,700 doctors, almost 500 toy magnet ingestions were reported in the last decade. More than 200 children have reportedly swallowed the toy magnets in the past year.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it’s standing by its lawsuit, saying the products are dangerous for small children and even teenagers.
CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson says the risk posed by the magnets “is a very high-priority hazard for the agency right now.”