While these magnets have been marketed as desk toys for adults, the agency’s complaint cited numerous incidents in which children younger than 14 swallowed the magnets, sometimes after using them to mimic tongue or lip piercings.
When two or more of the magnets are swallowed, they can attach to each other, ripping holes in the stomach and intestines or causing other serious injuries, blood poisoning and death. The agency said it knows of more than two dozen magnet ingestion cases since 2009. At least a dozen of them involved Buckyballs, and some required surgery, including a 4-year-old boy who ingested three Buckyballs that he thought were chocolate candy, the agency said.
Retailers that were alerted in advance of the federal agency’s lawsuit — including Amazon and Brookstone — agreed to stop selling the popular Buckyballs, Buckycubes and other similar products. Ebay also agreed to take steps to remove listings of these items, according to the CPSC.
More than 2 million Buckeyball sets and 200,000 Buckycubes have been sold in this country since 2009 and 2011, respectively.
Maxfield & Oberton, which has cooperated with the commission in recent years to warn about the misuse of the magnets, said it was stunned by the agency’s actions.
“Thank you for trying to drive a $50 million New York-based consumer product company out of business,” the company shot back in a statement on Wednesday. The magnet-distributor blasted the commission for filing a lawsuit, alleging the CPSC did not give the company a chance to make its case. Instead, the regulators asked the retailers to stop selling the magnets and gave them 48 hours to respond, the company said.
These “intimidation tactics” have ruined the retailer’s base without good reason, Craig Zucker, the company’s chief executive said. He added that it is unreasonable for the agency to react in such a way to two dozen cases of misuse when more than half a billion magnets are on the market.
“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,” Zucker said in a statement.
Typically, when the CPSC learns of potentially dangerous products, the company involved initiates a voluntary recall at the commission’s request. The last time the agency sued to force a recall was in 2001, when it tried to stop the sale of BB guns made by Daisy Manufacturing. The case was settled after Daisy agreed to prominently display more safety warnings on its products and launch an educational campaign.