Dangerous Toys List Highlights Dangers of Buckyballs, Other Magnet Toys

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By: Irvin Jackson | Published: December 5th, 2012

As the holiday season approaches, a consumer research group has released a list of dangerous toys that parents need to be aware of before purchasing, with magnetic desk toys, such as Buckyballs, Zen Magnets and others, topping the list. 

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group released its annual Trouble in Toyland (PDF) report late last month, warning parents about toys that could be dangerous to children’s health.

The report highlights the serious and potentially life-threatening dangers posed by toy magnets, which have been the focus of attention by federal regulators over the past year amid reports that children and teens are increasingly suffering severe internal injuries after swallowing one or more of the small magnets.

Problems associated with dangerous levels of lead, cadmium and phthalates in some children’s toys were also highlighted in the report, as well as risks posed by other toys that are too noisy or that could choke children.

Magnetic Toy Dangers

A large portion of the group’s attention in the report is focused on magnetic toy sets, such as the recently recalled Buckyballs, which include dozens of small, powerful rare earth magnets.

While the sets are often marketed as adult desk toys and contain warnings about the risks associated with swallowing the magnets, regulators have indicated that the warnings have been insufficient to avoid injury for children.

“The rising number of magnet injuries in children and teenagers suggests that the sale of high-powered magnets should be prohibited,” said Dr. Bryan Rudolph, Pediatric Gastroenterology Fellow at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York, in a PIRG press release. “In the meantime, the best defense against high-powered magnet ingestion and a trip to the emergency department is to make sure they are not present where children, live, visit or play.”

The high-powered magnets are shaped like BBs or small marbles, and can be formed into various shapes and designs that hold in place.  Many teens and young children have suffered devastating injuries after intentionally or accidentally swallowing more than one of the magnetic balls, often after placing them in their mouth to simulate a pierced tongue or attract the magnets across their cheek.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requested that 13 manufacturers of the magnetic ball toys issue voluntary recalls and stop sales.  While 11 companies complied, the regulatory agency was forced to file rare administrative complaints against two manufacturers, seeking to issue an involuntary Buckyball recall and Zen Magnets recall.

The report includes a list of toys considered unsafe by PIRG, and includes the magnetic Snake Eggs office toy by GreenBrier International, Inc.; A Dora the Explorer backpack that has high levels of phthalates by Global Design Concepts Inc., and a Dora the Explorer guitar by Fischer-Price that may be too loud to meet federal toy standards; Morphobot by GreenBreier International, Inc. which was tested for levels of lead that violate federal standards, and other toys. A full list is available in the appendix of the Trouble in Toyland report.

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