Magnetism is normally a good thing but not when you are talking about the attraction of powerful magnets inside the bodies of children and teens.

Safety officials with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) took the uncommon step last week of filing suit against Maxfield & Oberton, the manufacturer/distributor of Buckyballs and Buckycubes, alleging the magnet set is defective and demanding that sales be stopped. Even though the magnet sets are marketed to adults and contain age restrictions and safety warnings, young children and teens are accidentally ingesting the powerful magnets and suffering serious injuries requiring surgery to remove the magnets.

In its administrative complaint, the CPSC alleges the magnet sets are defective in their “design, packaging, warnings and instructions”, and because of this defect, pose a substantial risk of harm to the public. The CPSC asks that

  • the magnet sets be recalled immediately;
  • the manufacturer inform the public the magnet sets are defective; and
  • the manufacturer be ordered to stop selling Buckyballs and Buckycubes.

Maxfield & Oberton vowed to fight the suit calling it “unfair, unjust and un-American.”

Buckyballs and Buckycubes contain 216 powerful rare earth magnets, which are tiny in size and attract to one another to create different shapes. They are not your typical refrigerator magnets but are eight times more powerful and when ingested can cause serious injury or death.

If more than one magnet is ingested, they are attracted to each other inside the body and can tear through tissue perforating the intestinal tract and causing blockages in the GI tract. Young children like the small magnets because they look like candy, and tweens and teens use the magnets to simulate nose, lip and tongue piercings.

Maxfield & Oberton has worked with the CPSC to educate the public about the dangers of the magnet sets since 2010, first through a “cooperative recall” changing the appropriate age warning on the product, and then again in 2011 through social media, public service announcements and safety warnings.

Despite the initial recall, safety warnings and educational campaign, the CPSC continues to receive reports of serious injuries including more than 24 accidental ingestions involving the magnet sets since 2009.

The CPSC issued a “stop sale” request earlier this year but when Maxfield & Oberton refused, the CPSC filed suit. “We recognize that the company and the CPSC have tried to address the problem,” explained CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson, but “…[w]e felt the time had come when we needed to take a stronger position in order to protect the safety of children.”

Buckyballs and Buckycubes are still available for sale online and through various retailers nationwide. More than 2 million of the magnet sets have been sold in the United States alone.

If you suspect that magnets have been swallowed, seek immediate medical attention. If you are unsure of magnet ingestion, watch for abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and seek immediate medical attention if any of these symptoms occurs.

Becker Law Office is dedicated to bringing you the most up-to-date information about product safety and recalls. Watch for additional product recall information and be especially attentive if you own one of these magnet sets and have children in your household.

Additional information is available through the CPSC website at www.cpsc.gov or its consumer hotline at (800) 638-2772.