July 25, 2012

After Gillibrand Calls for Ban on Sale of Dangerous High-Powered Toy Magnets, Feds Announce Retailers to Stop Sale of Products

Since 2010, At Least 43 Children Have Ingested High-Powered Magnets, Causing Severe Stomach and Intestinal Damage

Washington, DC – With a recent rise in reported cases of toddlers and children who accidentally swallowed high-powered toy magnets that can be deadly and cause life-threatening injuries, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today announced that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reached an agreement with an estimated 10 retailers, including Amazon, Brookstone and Urban Outfitters, to stop selling these products due to the risks posed to children. The CPSC also filed a suit against the maker of these dangerous, high-powered magnetic balls. 

Senator Gillibrand urged the CPSC to take a step further and approve a federal rule banning the sale of these dangerous, high-powered magnetic balls that can be formed into different shapes from the retail market.  Last month, Gillibrand urged the CPSC to ban the sale of these magnets from the retail market. This year alone, there were at least 19 reported incidents of children who accidentally ingested these magnets, including four children in New York State.

“This is a good first step to help prevent these dangerous magnets from ending up in hands and mouths of children,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Every parent wants to keep their child safe and this unsuspecting product has already caused too much harm and put too many children’s lives at grave risk. We must take further action to stop these dangerous toys from reaching any more homes and stores.”

Senator Gillibrand wrote in a June letter to CPSC Chairwoman Inez Tennenbaum, “I write to you today about an issue of increasing concern, the accidental ingestion of high-powered magnets by children.  I commend the action your agency has taken to alert consumers on the risk that these magnets pose through your ad campaign.  These magnets are incredibly powerful and causing serious health issues in children who swallow them.  I am urging you to go one step further and ban the sale of these magnets in retail stores and limit use to professional use only… [C]urrent warnings on the packaging are not reducing the number of incidences of accidental ingestion, and in fact, cases are on the rise.  Again, I urge you to remove these dangerous products from the retail market.”      

Since 2010, there have been at least 43 incidents of children and toddlers who accidentally swallowed these magnets, according to the CPSC, with an increase in incidents each year. In 2005, a 20-month-old boy died after he swallowed nine magnets. In March of this year, a 3-year-old girl in Oregon swallowed 37 high-powered Buckyballs magnets, which tore at least three holes in her lower intestines and another in her stomach. When accidentally swallowed, these small “rare earth” or “neodymium” magnets can twist intestines, causing bowel ulcerations, intestinal damage, blood poisoning and even death. 

CPSC announced a voluntary recall in May 2010 of Buckeyballs that were incorrectly marked for ages 13 and older, a violation of toy labeling standards. The packaging on Buckeyballs contains a warning for parents, but Senator Gillibrand pointed out that these warnings are not reducing the number of incidents of children accidentally ingesting these products.