Scarcely a handful of years ago, the rage in magnets was BuckyBalls, the little spherical magnets that were fun to build and just fidget with. BuckyBalls were not the only producer of these magnetic spheres, but they were definitely the best known and most popular due to their aggressive marketing campaign.
However this popularity made them a huge target for any product issues and BuckyBalls was soon hammered by lawsuits brought by the CPSC and eventually were effectively forced out of business.
The reason? It was alleged that many children were swallowing the magnets and when two magnets attached in the intestines the skin could necrophy and sometimes surgery was required.
BuckyBalls stated they were aware of two dozen emergency room cases out of 3 million of BuckyBalls sets sold, while the CPSC claimed over 1700 cases. BuckyBalls agreed to multiple warnings on the box agreed and to not sell the magnets in toy stores, but it wasn’t enough and the CPSC, in an unprecedented move took action to push BuckyBalls out of stores.
Unfortunately, the company that produced BuckyBalls, Maxfield & Oberon, did not handle the situation well. At times they made reasonable replies, but at other times the company’s founder went on anti-Obama screeds that did little to defend the company’s position and probably estranged would-be supporters.
That being said, the push on BuckyBalls may have been the CPSC’s least popular action ever. But that didn’t stop them from pushing harder. Last month they put into law a total ban of rare-earth magnet sets to take place in 2015.
BuckyBalls, as noted earlier, are not the only spherical rare-earth magnet sets on the market. Even we at the store sell sets (although not online, and they are kept in a cabinet), at least two other companies, Magnicubes and Zen Magnets, sold the magnet sets. only Zen Magnets remains.
Zen Magnets is taking a slightly more scientific approach to defending their products. Instead of lashing out in anger, the founder, Shihan Qu, actually took a closer look at the CPSC’s claim of ‘1,700 emergency room incidents’ involving spherical magnets and found something rather odd. Here is their video:
The short version is: It seems the CPSC was using a very, very loose Venn diagram of search terms used in emergency room cases (words like ‘rare’, ‘powerful’ ‘spherical’ were all accepted) and considered any case that fell into that diagram to be a spherical magnet case. On its own that is shaky research, but it gets worse when the same terminology is used on the 3 years of emergency room cases prior to Spherical Magnets being introduced and shows there were just as many cases that fall under those terms over those 3 years.
The raw data from which the CPSC extrapolated their ‘1700 cases’ can be found here with highlighting to note the period when spherical magnets were introduced and what cases are doubtless caused by ingestion or aspiration of spherical magnets (most emergency room visits did not involve surgery).
Savemagnets.com is the place to visit to see latest developments in the attempts to prevent a CPSC ban.