Somewhere in 2008-2009 a few people started realizing that a bunch of spherical high-powered neodymium magnets were lots of fun to play with. They were an excellent ‘fidget’ toy. They could also be used to make different structures and were overall a lot of fun.
By the time you read this, BuckyBalls will be a thing of the past. Less than two months ago BuckyBalls announced that they would no longer sell to stores in order to control who buys it. Then, less than two weeks ago, they announced that they would no longer produce BuckyBalls or BuckyCubes. The few sets that remained would be sold online only. In effect, the company was being put out of business.
Why? The CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) initially was satisfied with BuckyBalls efforts to restrict sales to children back in 2010, this year they decided the measures were not enough and demanded that BuckyBalls cease selling them altogether. BuckyBalls was essentially regulated into oblivion.
The reason for this action was that there had been incidents where children swallowed the magnets. Swallowing one magnet is not a problem, but swallow two or more and they will ‘pinch’ in different parts of the intestine. There were no deaths but the surgery to resolve this is messy and complicated. There were some 2 dozen incidents out of 2.5 million sets of BuckyBalls sold. In all cases the swallowing was done by children (usually pretending to have tongue or facial piercings) who were not supposed to have the BuckyBalls per the warnings from the company.
There are other companies that produce spherical magnets, but the quality seems to vary from company to company. One set we got as a sample lost its nickel coating very quickly and tarnished. Another lacked the ‘power’ that makes BuckyBalls effective. A further one seemed to use regular magnets with nickel coatings so that it resembled BuckyBalls but was not.
We are saddened by the loss of this product. While it is bad that some kids were injured it should also be noted that BuckyBalls took great pains to keep kids from getting them. It seemed like each week we would get another set of stickers and instructions on who and how to sell BuckyBalls. In all the medical cases the product was being used improperly, and by people who should not have had them.