CPSC Starts Rulemaking to Develop Federal Standard for High-Powered Magnet Sets
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has voted 4 to 0 to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking aimed at developing a new federal standard for small, high-powered magnet sets.
CPSC staff estimates that small, high powered magnet sets were associated with 1,700 emergency room-treated injuries between 2009 and 2011. The majority of injuries (70 percent) have been to children 4 to 12 years of age. If swallowed, these magnets can link together inside a child's intestines and clamp onto body tissues, causing intestinal obstructions, perforations, sepsis and death. Internal damage from magnets can pose serious lifelong health effects.
The proposed rulemaking comes after the commission filed a series of lawsuits against magnet manufacturers. In July, the CPSC filed a lawsuit against the most popular of these companies, Maxfield & Oberton, creator of Buckyballs. The suit demanded that Maxfield & Oberton stop the sale of all products immediately and offer refunds to cutomers. The magnet manufacturer insists it has done nothing illegal and has vowed to fight the suit, filing a response in mid-August.
Following the Maxfield & Oberton lawsuit, the CPSC asked 12 other high-powered magnet manufacturers to pull their products from shelves. Eleven of the companies agreed to do so, with only Zen Magnets refusing to comply with the request. The CPSC responded by filing a lawsuit against Zen Magnets in early August.
Setting a mandatory federal standard would allow the commission to regulate the products without resorting to extreme measures such as the aforentioned lawsuits, which were the first direct stop-sale orders the CPSC issued in more than a decade. The proposed mandatory standard would set performance requirements for magnet sets based on their size and strength. Magnet sets that do not meet the performance requirement could not be sold as a manipulative or a desk toy.