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Doctors: Warning labels on magnetic toys aren't enough
October 23rd, 2012
06:13 PM ET

Doctors: Warning labels on magnetic toys aren't enough

Warning labels are not working to prevent children from ingesting Buckyballs and other powerful magnetic toys, a group of digestive health doctors said Tuesday.

The magnets can pierce holes in the intestines, and some children have needed multiple surgeries and lengthy hospitalizations.  Since 2010, there have been warning labels on Buckyballs - on five places in each box, and in accompanying instructions - aimed at keeping the magnets away from children.

But the warning labels on the high-powered magnetic toys are ineffective, the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition said Tuesday.  The group released the results of a new survey of more than 1,700 doctors, who reported at least 480 toy magnet ingestions in the past decade, with 204  occurring in the past year.

“The numbers have skyrocketed post-labeling,” said Dr. Mark Gilger, a pediatric gastroenterologist who helped author the study. “There’s just many examples of people ignoring the labels, or people who haven’t paid attention to them bringing them to their home inadvertently.”

Gilger said young children sometimes think the toys are candy, and older children and teens sometimes use the toys to mimic jewelry like tongue or cheek piercings.

In July, the Consumer Product Safety Commission sued the maker of Buckyballs to get the company to stop selling its products, but the company refused, according Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the federal agency.

A spokesman for Maxfield and Oberton, the maker of Buckyballs, on Tuesday defended the company’s efforts to keep powerful magnets away from children, including the use of warning labels.

“As a company we’ve really been trying to do the right thing and sell the product in the right marketplace and environment,” said Andrew Frank. “To say that this many injuries or incidents means that it should be taken off the market, it’s a difficult assessment about warning labels.”

In a statement, Maxfield and Oberton said that in addition to using warning labels, the company does not advertise or sell its products to children and has a strict policy of not selling to stores that do sell toys exclusively to kids.

The statement also noted the company’s efforts to educate its customers, including an informational safety website it developed.  The company said it has strongly advocated for a public education campaign sponsored by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, as the commission has done with other products that posed risks to children.


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soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. Gary

    Once again try to ban a simple product because parents are too stupid. Do anyone of you know that in other countries they laugh at us about this stuff? I've seen it in England, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, and Denmark. They think we are stupid. Should have heard them over the stroller closing issue a few years ago. It's not a matter of banning products it's a matter of paying attention to your kids.

    October 23, 2012 at 22:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Scott

      WARNING: Do Not let your kids play with gasoline and matches.
      Also, This bag is not a toy

      October 23, 2012 at 23:15 | Report abuse |
  2. Shane Masters

    Also, you should not allow children to play with loaded guns, play with fire and gas, water and electricity, drugs, drinking and driving. Everyone wants everyone else to be responsible for their actions!! When did we become this gelatinous, spineless society that we are now?!

    October 23, 2012 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • darryl

      When lawyers decided that they could make waaaaaaay to much money suing and when said lawyers could convince idiots that free money came from blaming others for the idiots' mistakes.

      October 24, 2012 at 00:31 | Report abuse |
  3. Location Shooter

    I agree with Shane, let's ban cars, gasoline, kitchen knives, and other safety issues. OR, shut the F up about this, and make parents DO their JOB in watching and raising their kids.

    October 23, 2012 at 23:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Anoymous

    I say take ALL the warning labels off everything and watch natural selection in action.

    October 23, 2012 at 23:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jennifer

    How about parenting? Anyone try that yet?????

    October 24, 2012 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. tony

    The danger in swallowing magnets is non obvious and non intuitive. Out of the pack, the colored balls particularly look just like a form of modern candy. And very young crawling children instinctively test new discoveries by tasting them in their mouths.

    October 24, 2012 at 00:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JamesBond

      Then keep them away from your children. It's that simple.

      October 24, 2012 at 01:02 | Report abuse |
    • Justsayno

      Adults with children have no business bringing these items into their home. If you purchase them, then fail to read, and heed the warning on the label, then shame on you if your child is injured. That parent shares in the blame imo. If you have no children, but on occasion babysit, or have children over, then you need to make sure such items are put away. Older children or teens that stick them in their mouths should know better. You cant eliminate all potential dangers, so parents have to be vigilant. I have a 19 yo, 14 yo and an 8 year old. If it looked like it could be swallowed, or choked on, it was kept out of my house, or kept out of reach.

      October 24, 2012 at 16:56 | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      How about not bringing them into homes with little kids then? No one is forcing you to buy them.

      October 25, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
  7. Mike

    Any parent stupid enough to buy these and leave them where a child can ingest them should be charged with reckless endangerment and serve some time. Make an example of a few of them and that will get the message across.

    October 24, 2012 at 01:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Alan Larson

    Perhaps you should be a little more up to date before you write:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/25/us-usa-buckyballs-idUSBRE86O1LN20120725

    October 24, 2012 at 02:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alan Larson

      And, I agree that banning them is a silly thing to do. Now, where can I get a bunch of them?

      October 24, 2012 at 02:10 | Report abuse |
  9. Jennifer C.K.

    You can't say you're for safety if you sell your products for 50-60% off like a fire sale. That isn't advocating safety. Neither is bashing the CPSC in cartoons and on tv. I don't agree with banning, but I wouldn't try to take down an agency who's duty is to protect children.

    You also missed this story about the other biggest company http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/09/nanodots-aversivetech/

    October 24, 2012 at 10:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mark

      How does discounting a product mean you are anti-safety? They tell you "NOT FOR KIDS". Parents need to take personal responsibility.

      October 25, 2012 at 14:18 | Report abuse |
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