Zen Magnets Presents CPSC with Petition to Cease Magnet Prohibition
A rare-earth magnets company is trying to halt the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) from banning magnet spheres.
Shihan Qu, founder of Zen Magnets, Boulder, Colo., started a change.org petition to rally together those against banning the rare-earth magnets. Qu hand-delivered 5,000 signatures Feb. 17 to acting commissioner Robert Adler at the Toy Industry Association Inc.'s Toy Fair in New York City, according to Save Magnets, a Zen-sponsored blog. As of press time, it had 5,035 signatures.
Since government pressure ended Buckyballs and 11 other competitors' existences, Zen is one of the last magnetic-ball companies still standing as it refuses to comply with CPSC's order to launch a recall and discontinue sales, according to The Denver Post (Buckyballs also did not back down, selling all of its remaining inventory before it stopped selling the item in question, according to Inc.). Qu's refusal to quit resulted in a bump in sales as competitors shut down business. In Zen's Magnets frequently asked questions section, it answers if the company is still in business with "Yes, we certainly are. Still proudly fighting the CPSC, and we shall continue to our last drop of cash-flow blood."
In November 2011, the CPSC issued its first warning on the danger of these high-powered magnets, citing more than 200 magnet-swallowing reports, with at least 18 requiring immediate surgery. Those magnets are prohibited in children's toys, but these products are labeled as not intended for children. But youngsters are still getting their hands on the products and sometimes swallowing them. Reported incidents involved children age 18 months to 15 years old.
In July 2012, the CPSC filed a federal lawsuit against Buckyballs' parent company, (which Buckyball's co-founder Chris Zucker is currently fighting,) seeking to have the company alert the public of the problem, voluntarily recall its products and offer full refunds. CPSC also requested that 12 other manufacturers voluntarily recall the products, according to a press release. All of them except for Zen complied, so in August 2012, the CPSC filed a similar federal lawsuit against Zen.
In both lawsuits, CPSC described the risks: "If two or more of the magnets are ingested and the magnetic forces of the magnets pull them together the magnets can pinch or trap the intestinal walls or other digestive tissue between them, resulting in acute and long-term health consequences. … Such conditions can lead to infection, sepsis and death."
Zen's warning on the products' packaging now warns consumers to "place swallowing magnets on your don't do list along with breathing water, drinking poison and running into traffic."
In his petition, Qu points out that while more than two million sets of Buckyballs were sold over three years, less than two dozen injuries injuries were reported. Zen has had no reports involving its product. Qu compared Zen's clean slate to higher numbers of children dying from choking on food and drowning.
"The CPSC is a necessary organization in the protection of consumers, but by pushing for an unfair ban that's drastically inconsistent with the hazards of other products, the CPSC wastes federal tax dollars, and dilutes the strength, power and reputation of their organization," Qu said in his petition. "Not only do they endanger a product with proven educational, therapeutic and artistic benefits, they endanger your rights and liberties. The CPSC has the power to immediately stop targeting the magnet-sphere industry, and if thousands of Americans voiced their concerns, they would be forced to listen.
"The CPSC may have the best intentions in trying to protect kids, but a one-size-fits-all ban is not the right way to go about it. Just as is the case with firearms, swimming pools and balloons, the solution to the safety problem is education and not prohibition. When it comes to product safety, every one of the links is responsible: companies, parents, children."