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Magnetic Toys Still Getting to Children – Parents Beware!

Posted by Marianne Frederick

Parents may remember that in 2009 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned the sale of toys for children which contained powerful magnets. The CPSC had received many reports of children having swallowed the magnets which caused the death of at least one child and serious injuries to other young children. While the magnetic toys for children were banned, the manufacturers decided to market the toys differently by making them available as novelty adult desk toys.

The problem remains that young children are still getting hold of them and swallowing them causing some pretty serious stomach and intestinal injuries. Pediatricians have met with the CPSC on several occasions and have even recommended banning them from the marketplace period! Brands of adult magnetic desk toys that have soared in the marketplace are Buckyballs, Magnet Balls, Zen Magnets and NeoCube.

Despite the fact that the novelty magnetic toys are labeled for adults or children older than 14 years of age, they are continuing to reach the very young. Whether mislabeling–as in one K-Mart online listing incorrectly noted the magnetic toys for ages 12 and up–or lack of warnings about the hazards of ingesting the magnetic balls are responsible, pediatricians are concerned that online marketing of the adult magnetic desk toys has made them more popular and more prevalent in the home and, hence, more dangerous to young children who ingest them. According to an article in the September 2012 issue of Consumer Reports,[1] Buckyballs, alone, generate annual sales of $25 million, per CEO Craig Zucker.

The Consumer Reports article also notes that non-profit safety organization, Kids In Danger, indicated in a recent report that at least “38 cases involving BB-sized magnets had been reported since January 2010,” with the results that 17 children required surgery and 8 children required other medical treatment.

The CPSC is honing in on these magnetic novelty adult toys and if pediatricians all over the country get their way, there may be more than just warnings coming down the pike.  Dr. Mark Gilger, chief of pediatric gastroenterology, Texas Children’s Hospital, warns parents, “You shouldn’t have magnets in your home if you have children, and if you suspect a child has swallowed any, seek emergency medical care immediately!”[2] We concur with Dr. Gilger.