We have written in the past about Buckyballs, a dangerous magnetic desk toy which has injured too many children. Last week came another development, which we hope finally removes this unsafe product from circulation.
On May 12, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a voluntary recall for all Buckyballs and Buckycubes. The recall settles an administrative case filed by the CPSC in July 2012. As part of this, Craig Zucker, the former chief executive officer of Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, agreed to establish a Recall Trust. Consumers will be able to request a refund from this fund, which will be controlled by the CPSC. The agency also urges the public to stop using these defective products immediately and look for loose pieces.
Maxfield & Oberton Holdings began selling Buckyballs in 2009. The company said the magnetic desk toy was intended for adults. The problem is if a child starts playing with the tiny magnets, they can swallow them. The magnets can attract inside a child and cause painful intestinal injuries. Surgery is often required and there can be serious longstanding health consequences, such as children having to consume food through a feeding tube.
The CPSC first worked with the company to improve warning labels. The products were marketed for children “Ages 13+” and the CPSC said they should have been marketed for age 14 and up. The company agreed to recall 175,000 magnetic toys and made the change. But the injuries continued. In July 2012, the CPSC filed a lawsuit asking the company to stop sales altogether, a rare legal action the agency has only taken four times in 11 years. The agency alleged that Buckyballs and Buckycubes contained, “a defect in the design, packaging, warnings and instructions, which pose a substantial risk of injury to the public.”
Maxfield & Oberton refused to recall Buckyballs and Buckycubes and in December 2012, the company went out of business. But it was vocal about disagreeing with the CPSC and posted this message on its website:
“Due to baseless and relentless legal badgering by a certain four letter government agency, it’s time to bid a fond farewell to the world’s most popular adult desk toys, Buckyballs and Buckycubes. That’s right: We’re sad to say that Balls & Cubes have a one-way ticket to the Land-of-Awesome-Stuff-You-Should-Have-Bought-When-You-Had-the-Chance.”
In April 2013, six retailers voluntarily recalled Buckyballs and Buckycubes while the CPSC kept trying to raise awareness about the dangers of Buckyballs and other magnetic toys. It established the Magnet Information Center as a consumer resource. Between 2009 and 2011, the CPSC estimates there were 1,700 ER-treated magnet ingestion cases related to high-powered magnet sets.
Zucker will have to eventually fund a website, where consumers can apply for a refund.
Buckyballs and Buckycubes High-Powered Magnet Sets Recalled Due to Ingestion Hazard; Craig Zucker To Fund A Recall Trust, Settles With CPSC, Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has moved a step closer to taking two dangerous magnet toys out of the hands of children.
On April 12, six retailers voluntarily recalled Buckyballs and Buckycubes. The stores included Barnes & Noble, Brookstone, some Hallmark stores, Marbles the Brain Store and Think Geek.
Maxfield & Oberton Holdings of New York City, the importer and distributor, refused to issue a recall last year, prompting the CPSC to file a lawsuit against the company in July to stop sales. The rare legal action – one of just four taken by the CPSC in the past 11 years – resulted in the company discontinuing its products in October. It stopped doing business in December.
The product was manufactured by Ningo Prosperous Imp. Exp. Co. Ltd. of Ningbo City in China.
Buckyballs and Buckycubes vary in size and color, but they are essentially a ball or cube of small powerful magnets. They were sold in containers of 10 to 216 magnets that can become loose. The first of the two products was introduced in the U.S. in March 2009. Since then, over three million sets of magnets have been sold in U.S. retail stores and online.
Maxfield & Oberton initially marketed Buckyballs to children, calling it “an amazing toy.” It later rebranded the magnet toys as an adult desk toy and stress reliever.
But while the magnets were being marketed to adults, the CPSC was still receiving reports that children were swallowing them. It has received 54 reports of injuries, all but one requiring medical treatment.
The CPSC’s July 25, 2012 complaint alleged that the magnet products had defective labeling and warnings, defective design, and posed a substantial product hazard.
The CPSC began working with the company on labeling three years ago, when the magnets were labeled for use by children “Ages 13+.” The agency said the magnets should have been marketed for age 14 and up.
Maxfield & Oberton changed the labeling and agreed to a voluntary recall of 175,000 magnet toys, but the CPSC said the injuries continued. In its complaint, it states, “…labeling and warning labels cannot guard against the foreseeable misuse of the product and prevent the substantial risk of injury to children.”
Company officials did not agree with the CPSC’s action. In October, they posted a statement on their website that read in part: “We’re sad to say that Balls & Cubes have a one-way ticket to the Land-of-Awesome-Stuff-You-Should-Have-Bought-When-You-Had-the-Chance.”
Over the past few years, the CPSC set up a Magnets Information Center on its website to educate the public about the danger of swallowing magnets.
The risk is that if a child ingests more than one of the powerful magnets, they can become attracted to each other while in the intestines, pinching tissue and damaging the intestinal walls. This can result in a wide range of symptoms, including vomiting, abdominal pain, infection and death. Surgery is often required and becomes more complicated because the magnets can stick to the metal surgical tools.
And in some cases children ingested more than one or two. CBS News reported the case of a 3-year-old Oregon girl who swallowed 37 Buckyballs. The CPSC complaint details cases of other young children who have swallowed numerous magnets.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has taken a rare legal action seeking to stop sales of a magnet desk toy, alleging children are swallowing the pieces, then suffering serious injuries requiring surgery.
The CPSC filed an administrative complaint on July 25 against Maxfield & Oberton Holdings LLC, of New York, N.Y., the maker of Buckyballs and Buckycubes. The government agency and company failed to agree on the CPSC’s proposed voluntary recall plan for the magnet sets with 216 units.
The CPSC alleges the popular desk furnishing contains a defect in design, packaging, warnings and instructions. It wants the company to stop selling the defective product, notify the public about potential for injury and offer consumers a full refund. It is the CPSC’s second time taking this type of legal action in 11 years.
The CPSC is intervening after receiving more than two dozen of reports young children and teenagers have swallowed the magnets, requiring surgery. At least a dozen involved Buckyballs.
When two or more magnets are swallowed, they can move toward each other through the stomach and intestinal walls, resulting in serious injuries such as holes in the stomach, intestinal blockage, blood poisoning and possible wrongful death.
The CPSC reports young children are removing the magnets from the kits and placing them in their mouth. Meanwhile, older children and teenagers have unintentionally swallowed the magnets while placing them in their mouths to mimic having a tongue ring.
At least 10 retailers, including Amazon.com, have agreed to stop selling the defective product. EBay is also removing these listings from its online marketplace.
In May 2010, the CPSC and Max & Oberton conducted a cooperative recall of about 175,000 Buckyball magnet sets for mislabeling. The toys were labeled “Ages 13+” and did not meet the federal toy standard that loose magnets not be sold for children younger than 14. Injury reports preceded and followed the notice.
In November 2011, the CPSC and Max & Oberton worked cooperatively to warn about the dangers that could occur, but injuries continued, leading to the CPSC’s latest action. The CPSC now says a recall is necessary because all these prior steps have been ineffective.
- CPSC Sues Maxfield & Oberton Over Hazardous Buckyballs and Buckycube Desk Toys, Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- Feds file suit against Buckyballs, retailers ban product, USA Today.