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CPSC Files Suit to Ban Buckyballs Magnetic Toys

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A lawsuit has been filed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ban Buckyballs and Buckycube magnetic desk toys, the Commission announced. The CPSC filed an administrative

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complaint against Maxfield & Oberton Holdings LLC, of New York, New York, alleging that Buckyballs and Buckycubes contain a defect in design, packaging, warnings, and instructions, which pose a substantial risk of injury to the public. The Commission voted 3-1 to approve the filing, which seeks, in part, an order that the firm stop selling the toys, notify the public of the defect, and offer consumers a full refund. Manufactured by Maxfield & Oberton, the toys have been linked to significant and ongoing harm. CPSC spokesman, Scott Wolfson, said the Commission asked Maxfield & Oberton to stop selling the Buckyballs and Buckycubes, but they refused. “We’re doing this to keep children safe,” Wolfson told CNN. “We want to prevent future surgeries.” In response to the lawsuit, Maxfield & Oberton spokesman, Andrew Frank, said the company “will fight this vigorously,” saying, “There are half a billion magnets out there, and unfortunately there are some people who have misused the product…. We market these products to adults age 14 and above, and there

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are warning labels on the product,” wrote CNN. The CPSC requested that sale of these products be stopped and a number of retailers have complied, ceasing sales of Buckyballs, Buckycubes, and similar products; eBay also agreed to implement steps to remove listings by sellers for these items. When discussions with Maxfield & Oberton failed to result in a suitable, voluntary recall plan, the CPSC filed the administrative complaint. Very rare, this type of legal action against a company has only occurred one other time in over a decade. When multiple magnets are swallowed, they can attract internally, resulting in significant injuries. Potentially fatal problems can be difficult to diagnose; initial physical exams might not reveal a serious problem; and patients can suffer from bowel perforation, volvulus (intestinal twisting causing obstruction), ischemia (inadequate blood flow to a part of the body caused by constriction or blockage of the blood vessels), and death. When magnets pass beyond the stomach, they can attract through divergent intestinal walls, causing obstruction and necrosis—death of cells or tissue—or intestinal perforation can occur. About 20 percent of all swallowing accidents require surgery. Buckyball and Buckycube sets contain up to 216 powerful rare earth magnets. In May 2010, CPSC and Maxfield & Oberton announced a cooperative recall (http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml10/10251.html) for 175,000 Buckyball high-powered magnets sets labeled “Ages 13+,” and which did not meet the federal mandatory toy standard mandating these types of powerful magnets not be sold for children under age 14. At that time, the firm was aware of two reports of children swallowing magnets without injury. CPSC staff continued to receive reports of children ingesting the product and learned of incidents in which children suffered injuries; staff later learned of one-dozen related surgeries, including many involving Buckyballs. In November 2011, CPSC and Maxfield & Oberton collaborated to inform and educate consumers (http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2011/11/magnet-dangers/) that Buckyballs were intended for adult use only and, although risk scenarios differ by age, the danger of ingesting multiple rare earth magnets is the same. Even after a safety alert was issued (http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml12/12037.html), ingestions and injuries continued. Wolfson noted that, since 2008, the CPSC has received 200 reports of magnet ingestion, said CNN. Since 2009, CPSC staff has learned that more than two-dozen ingestion incidents involved high-powered, rare earth magnets and at least one dozen involved Buckyballs; many led to surgery. The CPSC alleges that despite attempts to warn consumers, warnings and education ineffective and do not prevent injuries and incidents with rare earth magnets. “Obviously the bureaucrats see danger everywhere, and those responsible people—like our company who have vigorously promoted safety and appropriate use of our products—gets put out of business by an unfair and arbitrary process,” said Craig Zucker, founder and CEO of Maxfield and Oberton. “I don’t understand how and why they did this without following their own rules before allowing us to make our case. It almost seems like they simply wanted to put our products and industry out of business,” Zucker added, said CNN. “We have worked with the company over the years,” Wolfson said. “We did a recall with them in 2010. Yet the injuries still happened. In 2011 we worked with them on the education of consumers. Incidents still happened. So we’ve reached a point where we really do need to take stronger action, which we’re doing. We’re filing a lawsuit,” wrote CNN. Wolfson added that the Commission is looking at the safety of other brands of small, high-powered “rare earth” magnets.

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