Zen Magnets Files Petition To CPSC Calling For Toy Magnet Rule Decision

After a successful battle to overturn federal rules that were designed to prevent child injuries and deaths linked to powerful toy magnets, one company has filed a petition calling for federal regulators to try again, but only apply the rules to magnets directly marketed to children. 

Zen Magnets filed a petition on September 29, calling for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to establish new toy magnet rules. The CPSC announced the petition in a federal register notice (PDF).

According to a magnet information center website published by the CPSC, nearly 3,000 children and teenagers swallowed the magnets and had to be treated in emergency rooms nationwide between 2009 and 2013, including the death of a 19-month girl, Annaka Chaffin, after accidentally swallowing the magnets.

Amid growing concerns over the popular rare earth magnet sets sold by Zen Magnets and other manufacturers, the CPSC enacted new safety standards for the toy magnet sets several years ago, which Zen Magnets fought aggressively in court.

In November 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued a 2-1 ruling, which found that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned small toy magnets without sufficient evidence that they carried a large enough risk to children.

The toy magnet safety rules, enacted in October 2014, came after several battles with manufacturers to get them to recall products after the CPSC determined that warnings provided were insufficient to avoid injuries. Zen Magnets, LLC, protested the new rules, and challenged them in court.

The rules set a size limit for toy magnet sets to prevent them from being accidentally swallowed or ingested by small children or disabled adults, as the powerful magnets may adhere across intestinal walls and cause severe complications. If the toy magnets were smaller than a set size, they had to be limited in strength, under the rules.

The CPSC rules effectively banned the powerful rare-earth magnet sets, which were often sold as office desk toys. Most companies agreed to recall their magnet sets before the rule went into place.

Some previously sold magnet sets were 37 times more powerful than the new regulations would allow, the CPSC noted.

The proposed rules by Zen Magnets call for performance standards to be limited to those magnet sets designed, marketed, or manufactured for children under the age of 14. The company has long held that its magnet sets, which many saw as toys, were not, in fact, toys, and were meant for adults. It also calls for warnings and instructional requirements designed to inform consumers that they are not to be used by children, and that they should carry age recommendations of 14 years and older.

If enacted as such, it would allow many of the manufacturers shut down by the CPSC to produce magnet sets that many critics say would be dangerous and would still attract children and result in severe injuries and deaths. The CPSC has long said that such warnings do not appear to be effective in preventing child magnet injuries.

The public has until December 5, 2017, to file comments on the petition, which will be identified as Docket No. CPSC-2017-0037. Electronic submissions can be filed through Written submissions can be mailed or hand delivered to the Office of the Secretary, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Room 820, 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814. Further instructions on submissions can be found in the Federal Register notice.

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