November 2nd, 2012
11:16 AM ET
Magnetic Buckyballs toys discontinued
The popular Buckyballs and Buckycubes magnetic desk toys will be discontinued, its manufacturer said, blaming what it called "baseless and relentless legal badgering" from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
"It's time to bid a fond farewell to the world's most popular adult desk toys," Maxfield and Oberton, the maker of Buckyballs, said on its website this week. "That's right: We're sad to say that Balls and Cubes have a one-way ticket to the Land-of-Awesome-Stuff-You-Should-Have-Bought-When-You-Had-the-Chance."
A limited number of the toys are still available, but no more will be made after they sell out, the company said.
In July, the Consumer Product Safety Commission sued Maxfield and Oberton in an attempt to get the company to stop selling the toys, saying they are hazardous to children. When children swallow the powerful magnets, they can pierce holes in the intestines, the commission said, and some children have required multiple surgeries and lengthy hospitalizations. Since 2009, officials said, there have been at least a dozen ingestions of the Buckyballs magnets.
"CPSC stands behind the case at this time," commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said Friday. "We continue to allege and believe that Buckyballs and Buckycubes are dangerous and defective for young children as well as teenagers."
Internet videos direct older children and teenagers how to use the toys to mimic tongue or cheek piercings, he said, and some have ended up ingesting them.
At the time the suit was filed, Maxfield and Oberton spokesman Andrew Frank said the company would "fight this vigorously," noting that while "some people have misused the product," the toys were marketed to those aged 14 and up, and carried warning labels.
But "we made a tough decision after a lot of thought based on how to protect the integrity of the business, the brand, and begin to move forward," Frank said in an e-mail Friday. "It was time for our team to start focusing on the future and providing innovative products for our loyal customers. We will continue to fight the CPSC and sell our other products."
Wolfson said the Consumer Product Safety Commission did not single out Maxfield and Oberton.
"We have seen incidents with a variety of different brands (of magnetic toys)," he said. "That's why our approach to this hazard has not been exclusive to one company."
Eleven of 13 manufacturers agreed to stop making, importing and selling the toys. Maxfield and Oberton and a Colorado company called Zen Magnets did not, and the commission filed suit against them, Wolfson said. Both suits continue.
Last month, the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition said warning labels on Buckyballs were ineffective. 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 use the toys to mimic piercings.
Doctors have said "the injury pattern they are seeing in hospitals (after ingestion) is like a gunshot wound to the gut with no sign of entry or exit," Wolfson said.
Frank last month defended Maxfield and Oberton's efforts to keep the toys away from children, and the company said in a statement it does not 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.
Zen Magnets acknowledged in a Reddit posting Thursday that "the magnet fight is probably lost."
With Buckyballs' demise, "This makes Zen the last magnet sphere company standing in the US for now," the post says. "We'll keep fighting as long as we can."
Zen Magnets was the first company to receive an administrative complaint from the Consumer Product Safety Commission without a record of injuries, as the company has had no ingestions of its products, said founder Shihan Qu.
"We've always sold online, where it's not easy for kids to buy anyway," he said.
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The path to Idiocracy is slow and steady!!!
Right? Thank you terrible parents for not watching your children and actually parenting.
you should sue the parents who let the kids eat them instead of the company.
Shut down gun makers because people keep killing each other????? Just dumb
CPSC = Nazis
Bring back Jarts!
this is what happens when you have government agencies with no purpose and unlimited funding... Obama 2012 cause borrowing money from china is neccesary to support programs like these
Yet another example of our litigious society running wild. Heaven forbid politicians and bureaucrats actually expect people to take responsibly. That would be disasterous to the politicians who get fat campaign contributions from the trial lawyers, and in return pass the very legislation that always makes it "someone elses fault."
The danger is real, and as real parents have noted, two year olds behave like two year olds, and parents don't always understand the dangers.
What is really lost if these toys are gone? Not a whole lot, certainly not as much as is lost by the children, their families, and any others who pay the costs.
Litigation is meant to be a civilized alternative to resolving disputes the old way: kill the CEO and the product manager, a life for a life.
48 cases a year over the past decade across the entire country.. so basically 1 case per state every year. That hardly seems like a disturbing figure. Why not ban legos. I'm sure children choking and dying on those evil little plastic blocks far exceed the number of children who swallow magnetic toys that pierce the intestines.
@RP1588: "Parents don't always understand the dangers." Really? The dangers of what a two-year old can get into? Perhaps they can read a parenting book rather than sue an industry. Parents blaming others for not comprehending what their own child may get into is lame. If one chooses to have children, then they best be ready to accept the work that goes into it. Please DO NOT expect all others to contribute to your job,a s well.
The loss here is not just the loss of buckyballs in itself, but yet another contribution to government's interference into our personal choices in life as well as one company's (which will lead to many more) sad demise.
I get that banning magnets is ridiculous. It's fully crazy. But you also can't say that what Buckyballs is doing is right either. Openly making fun of a safety org that's trying to save kids?
If you care, comment on the rulemaking to try to save the product. Instead of making everything worse by encouraging the government to ban it. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE http://www.cpsc.gov/onsafety/2012/08/magnet-rulemaking-how-you-can-be-involved/
Are you kidding? Of course I will mock the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They SUED because parents aren't responsible enough to keep them away from children. Do you know how absurd that is? The product is labeled, and not malfunctioning. So to punish the company because of stupid parenting is a joke.
Just because your agency's goal is noble doesn't it doesn't make your actions right.
One cannot ban the entirety of what a child can swallow; at some point the parent will have to watch and teach the child what not to put in their mouths...like NYC and their "large" drink ban.
"Openly making fun of a safety org that's trying to save kids?"
Hiding behind the old "do it for the children" trope doesn't silence me anymore. If you're an organization that is in the WRONG, then you'll be mocked and ridiculed. Deal with it.
You are wrong. The CPSC indeed should be openly mocked for its ridiculous efforts to ban these products.
More children each year are killed due to guns. Why are they not banned.
More children each year are killed due to choking on hot digs, Why are they not banned.
More children each year are killed due to drowning in pools, Why are they not banned.
You cannot legislate people against stupidity, and if you want to live in a nanny state you must be willing to give up some freedom of choice. I prefer to have the choice.
We should ban cars. I know for a fact that cars occasionally hurt children by running over them an sometimes crashing into other cars; injuring, sometimes even killing children. We should get GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Audi, etc to stop building cars immediately. How come CPSC is not banning cars for Christ's sake?
@ Ironic One, M Thibault, Coflyboy, et al....
The things you identified are not marketed as "toys" and therefore parents take more care to ensure small children, and some adults, who have not fully developed their since of self preservation are not allowed to "play" with them. Parents and guardians do sometimes let their guard down with toys, leading to children sticking parts and pieces in places (ears, nose, mouth) they were not intended to go.
That being said, since this toy is supposedly marketed to "adults", I disagree with the CPSC suing the manufacturer.
Sorry grammar police, I was typing too fast. That should read, "...who have not fully developed their SENSE of self preservation..."
Having a good laugh, these are toys with potential danger. Similar to a paintball gun. They say for ages 14 and up. I get the impression they are more aimed at adults anyway. But the point is, parents are the ones who need read the labels. If you have small children you shouldn't assume anything about any product you buy.
I think that the kids who choked on those things should be put in foster homes. It seems obvious it is the parents fault because of their inattention to their own children. But no, let's punish a legitimate business instead.
I suspect you have never had small kids in your care. It is virtually impossible to keep them from ingesting anything they get their hands on. I am good friends with a family who's young son died after ingesting two magnets and developing sepsis. They were not bad parents.
Parent, I have a 2 year old. The worst thing she has ingested was a piece of hair, a crumb she found on the ground, or a small part of a piece of paper she decided to bite instead of color on. Nothing dangerous. I have kept her from attempting to ingest plenty of more dangerous things. It is easy. Just watch your child. Have them play in the room with you. Keep dangerous things out of their reach or not in their play room. It hasn't been that hard.
Yes Parent, they WERE bad parents. I also have 2 small children, and they have never swallowed anything dangerous. They are in my sight at all times and I've stopped them many times from putting stuff into their mouth that they shouldn't. No, you won't be able to stop them from trying to eat something they shouldn't, but you can certainly stop them from succeeding at it. All you have to do is be responsible and watch your child. I feel terrible for your friends, but they should have kept closer tabs on their son.
@ 757Matt, Yes they were:
You HOPE they haven't swallowed anything more dangerous. Little ones are fast and everything goes to their mouths first. Good luck with that for the next 6 or 7 years.....
The "think of the children" mindset is one of the most dangerous things in the world. By their though, I hope they've gone after bike manufacturers for not including some sort of lock out system to prevent kids from riding a bike without a helmet since that increases chance of injury or death. I hope they've also gone after all gun manufacturers since if a child gets a gun they can shot themselves. I guess it makes too much sense for them to just get parents to be responsible and keep these things away from children. Irresponsible parents are the problem, not the products. There are countless things that MIGHT cause harm to children (and people in general) if you aren't paying attention.
I have to wonder where all these issues were when I was growing up. We played on metal playgrounds for pete's sake! How many children got concussions? How many manufacturers were sued? Where are we taking ourselves?
Look, pretty shiny balls.... I want to eat them.... Mmm tasty shiny pretty candies... uh oh
Look mommy, daddy's gun sticks to my stomach!
It is a parent responsibility. If you have small child in the house – remove all small objects out of their reach. Problem solved.
But guns are still sold......
Things that make you go....hmmm?
So ridiculous. Sadly the Onion has ceased to become satire:
Should we also ban pills, pushpins, and anything small enough to be swallowed?
I grieve to hear of injured children. However, as a parent I understand that keeping my child safe from small objects is MY responsibility.
Never thought there would be a day when magnets are considered hazardous. Remember all those science projects in elementary school... too dangerous... Darn it idiot parents if you dont want kids to suffer from swallowing magnets, dont let your kid swallow magnets! Poor Maxfield and Oberton...
I blame pop culture for encourage children to be so eager to put balls in their mouths.
It is just appalling that more people don't recognize what a gross abuse this is, what tyranny, what appalling misuse of government power. More people die from lighting strikes, but the CPSC in their infinite wisdom do nothing to prevent it. The CPSC is exhibiting all the symptoms of totalitarian thugs. Call them Stalinists, call them fascists, call them jack booted Nazi thugs, call them an Orwellian fantasy. Why do people tolerate this crap from government? Why aren't there mobs with pitchforks and torches? What happened to the honorable practice of tarring and feathering of government officers who lose their sense of their proper place?
More children die because alcoholic parents too. Also blind cords. Pools. School Bus Crossings. Depressed Mothers. The list goes on and on. If everything was banned because of the danger it posed for children....we'd have a barren desert.
Hundreds of kids die every year from mishandling guns, but those are still for sale. Maybe God wants those kids to die because they're stupid.
Okay, maybe I'm just dumb but could someone please explain to me the physics involved in a small, smooth, and perfectly spherical ball being able to "pierce holes in the intestines"??? I call BS. If this really happened I want to see a link to an offical story about it.
The balls are magnetic and quite strong. When a child swallows them, they pull on each other, possibly through different parts of the intestine, causing pinching.
You can get a sense of it if you take two very strong magnets and put something thin and sensitive between them, like the webbing between your fingertips.
it's not the kids that swallowed just the one. there's been quite a few over the last several years who have swallowed 2 or more. what happens is that while one of them passes, another in a different part of the intestine becomes attracted to it (i am sure ur aware of how the intestine loops back and forth upon itself) and the two are then pinching the intestinal wall between themselves. it can tear the intestine or wear a hole in it and then u have one sick baby. this is the most recent, and memorable, article about the issue. i have very little sympathy, personally, it's not a child's toy in the first place, and if these ppl don't know that the first line of investigation for small children with a new object is to put it in their mouth, they shouldn't be parents. u HAVE to watch the little boogers every minute of the day, period. before the advent of this toy ,there were warnings about kitchen fridge magnets, and if i knew of THOSE warnings long before i had a child, there's no excuse for ppl to have small, loose magnets in the house and not make sure the kiddies aren't swallowing them.
Robert, the danger occurs if someone swallows more than one of those magnets. Because the small intestine winds back and forth over itself, it is possible for two strong magnets to "clamp" two separate segments of the intestine together. If the magnets are strong enough (think "neodymium"), I imagine the snapping together of the magnets can occur with enough force to cause a puncture. Other complications include intestinal blockage and bleeding. You can do a google search on "magnet intestine puncture" if you want to see news reports of this happening. So, the danger is not complete BS. Still, I agree with the comments that it is largely the responsibility of the parents to monitor their kids. We should be child-proofing HOMES, not the entire SOCIETY! Think of the ADULTS! 🙂
There is real danger in this so call "adult Toy". Guns do kill children, all the time, but they are not label as toys. My wife nephew was visiting his dumb uncle and Grandmother (from the other side of the family)who happens to have thiese buckyballs. the 4 year old ended up having to have surgery to remove 17 balls from his intestine after playing with buckyballs. I have a 1 and 3 year old and could not understand how that happened, but it those happen all the time. I'm glad they are off the market.
Kevin – I don't have webbing between my fingertips – if you do, I think you might want to get that checked out
Keeping children safe? Isn't that what parents are for?
Interesting that the Federal Government decided that warning labels are ineffective – but still requires them on so many other products. *Logic* says that if they're ineffective, don't force other products to carry them. If they *are* effective, don't ban the Buckyballs. But raw power doesn't care about logic...
I want one now.
I agree with the posters that state that it is not the company's fault that these toys are misused. The parents might be loving attentive parents but if you have small children in the house these toys should not cross the threshold. The company clearly marked the toys as being dangerous to small children so how did the kids get a hold of the toys to swallow them? Either parents who either did not pay attention to the clearly marked warnings and brought the toys into their homes or parents who were not watching the children as they visited people with these toys. Either way it is the parents fault. This is what is wrong with society today, no one wants to take responsibility for their choices or actions. Most people would rather blame an innocent toy for their irresponsibility. As a parent of two I think this is ridiculous.
This reminds me of the day they discontinued Bag-O-Glass. Darn, I miss those days.
The Nanny State grows: 12 irresponsible parents eliminate a product from being available to hundreds of millions. What perfect sense!
Yep. I have no kids and no kids would ever even touch them if I had them, but now I can't purchase this toy.
Turns out it's not the manufacturer's fault.
"“There’s just many examples of people ignoring the labels, "
That sentence pretty much sums it up...
Good! Now actual, real buckyballs won't be confused with toys. If it's not a C60 spherical fullerene molecule then it's not a buckyball. Those magnetic balls sure look fun.
The CPSC says "We're doing this to keep children safe" because the parents of the children are too dumb to do it themselves...
Why are people standing in the way of natural selection?
I truly wish they would just come out and blatently say that. It would make this sad issue just that much better.
Excuse me, every time I feed my children bleach and liquid pipe cleaner, they get very sick. We MUST sue the makers of these dangerous products before all of humanity is wiped out!
Lawsuits are SUPPOSED to protect against products that are dangerous DESPITE being used as recommended.
Sooooo...most mass produced, hollywood approved toys, bleach and steak knives are still a-ok, even though kids die from those things. Just slap a danger label on them and we're good. But heaven forbid we sell magnetic balls, because kids today are too stupid not to eat them, and parents are too stupid to keep them out of reach. Awesome. How on Earth did people survive back in the days before we had lawsuits and agencies dedicated to protecting us all from the dangers of stupid children and careless parents?
Ah, progress. I find as the years pass, I have less and less in common with average "humans", and that average "humans" has more and more in common with average baboons. Good luck all. In case anyone needs me, I'll be hiding out in the woods until you people start to wise up.
Whoa, people talking about personal responsibility as if it were a good thing?! How refreshing. Oh wait, I forgot...this story is not on CNN's political ticker. That explains it.
Good! Now we just have to ban nails, pins, needles and razors.
good thing anal beads are to big to swallow
Info for Robert: the sad reality is that if two of these powerful magnets are swallowed they can then pinch the winding intestinal wall when they pull together. I'm not a doctor, but I'm guessing the piercing of the intestines happens as it dies in the spot between the two magnetic balls. It is a sad tragedy no doubt. It also strikes me as one of the risks that exist when virtually anyone, young or old, well supervised or not, simply plays.
Not directly related because it involves children a bit older, I used to love to go diving. Now, good luck finding a diving board. Diving off the rock walls by the river? It used to be fun. Now - it's illegal. No wonder kids do drugs. The relatively safe fun, but never completely safe fun because that's just plain impossible, is being killed. It's been going on for decades and just keeps getting worse and worse. As a result our children die in greater numbers as part of the 'underground' playing with drugs than ever died due to the above ground, relatively, but not completely, safe play of a million other things now rendered unavailable or illegal. If I had little children and had seen Buckyballs I'd have bought them and tried to keep them from my children. I might have messed up. My child might have found them and ingested them. It would be a personal tragedy. It wouldn't have been anyone's FAULT unless I was just plain relatively consistently negligent. A freak accident tied to a freak mistake is not negligence; it's life. Zero risk = zero life. I'm heading to Hawaii in 6 weeks. I'm planning to sky dive. I'm 57. I might die. My daughters are also planning to sky dive. Either or both of them might die. My wife is debating on going. If she does, she might die. The odds are low, but a parachute can fail to open. Odds are, we'll have a lifetime of great memories. It's worth the minimal risk. A little risk, a lot of life. The CPSC over-reached horribly on Buckyballs. Per their logic in this case they should sue all cell phone manufacturers because too many people text and drive. Or, more directly for kids, they should sue all swimming pool operators because on rare occasion children drown. You should see the 3 year olds play in the ocean waves off North Shore Hawaii – the CPSC should close down the ocean!
Are we going to stop selling alcohol because kids drink it, or because someone will drink and drive. NO! This is the wrong way of handling this situation. Why should the company have to stop making something, when clearly it's the lack of supervision on the part of parents who's children are ingesting these. This is obsurd! Charge the parents with neglect! Don't punish the manufacturer who has done their job in clearly labeling there product. This world is run by morons!
Perhaps they should make them too big to swallow. Of course, you will need a very sturdy desk.
Children running with scissors get hurt to. Is it time to ban scissors and running? No, it is time for parents to take RESPONSIBILITY for THEIR CHILDREN.
By this logic we should discontinue liquor, guns, prescription drugs, fire and household cleaners. And rocks and dirt need a good looking over too, I'd say.
Pencil's poke out eyes and they still make them?
That seals it. I'm no longer undecided. I'll be voting for Romney in hopes that he will reign in the out-0of-control, insane CPSC.
Reminds me of a Mad Magazine ad for a cinder block which had a page of warnings – my favorite was 'do not grind up and injest'
Why hasn't the CPSC banned balloons. They are far more dangerous than magnets and have killed a lot more people.
Wait a second, are you saying that it was bad that I gave them out for Halloween?
Happiness and Capitalism has been defeated by Bad Parents, Legal Battles and finger pointing.
Honestly, this is a good thing. Normally I'm against government regulation, but ...
We use rare earth magnets very similar to these in small aircraft manufacturing to secure avionics and access panels. They are hideously strong, and can withstand 120knt wind blast and 4+ Gs and not budge. These tiny little magnets. Ours are disc or bar shaped.
Seriously they are _strong_ I can easily see them squeezing holes in some child's innards. I get freaked out enough when I lose track of one at work. End up finding it stuck to the side of a welding cart 10 feet away from where I dropped it, 3 weeks later. When combined with the kid-attractive round shape and the toy-like packaging, it is just a hospital trip waiting to happen.
I mean when I was a kid I had little magnetic letters in an educational toy. Too big to really stick in my mouth, and the magnets were large and weak. These rare-earth "toy" magnets are easily 500x the gauss/pull.
So, are we going to get rid of kitchen cleaners too? 1.5 MILLION cases of accidental poisoning PER YEAR, most in children under 12, all from stuff "under the kitchen sink" vs 12 ingestions since 2009 (3 YEARS) and we get rid of the toy?!?! When kids swallow poisons, the response is "Put it under lock and key". Why is this different? Oh, that's right. This is the country that's afraid to fly without the TSA (or at all), even though going by car is far more deadly. Next we can move on to balloons, marbles, coins, lollipops, ... We are becoming a bunch of molly coddled morons. Cut this crap out!!!
Maxfield and Oberton should have donated $$ to Obama's campaign and then they would still be in business
12 people over thee or four years? Really. Given that every. single. one. of those people willfully ignored multiple warnings on the packaging. Are you #$(%ing kidding me? So much for personal responsibility.
ok, look. kids are going to stick anything they can fit into their mouths. PARENTS need to be the responsible ones here and keep these things out of the house then. but if you are an adult, and don't have kids, there's no harm. it comes down to parents keeping dangerous items away from their kids...not the government, not manufacturers!!
Geez, I thought these only happen in authoritarian or dictatorship countries, but never in a thousand year it could happen in the Land-of-the-Free, America. So much for the land of the free! How in the H E L L are we a land of the free when the gov't tells us what to do or not to do, or what good for us?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission should be closed down and we should open the Parent Product responsibility Commission.
The next step is the CPSC banning all hurricanes in inhabited areas as there is no (evacuate now stupid) labels attached.
By the same logic, automobiles should be discontinued.
Uh ... what? What logic is that? Not the same.
Stop generating electricity. How many people have died from it?
That's EXACTLY why I bought two sets when the story broke out!