Local children fall ill from swallowing desk toy pieces that are the center of a legal battle

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bbe8_bucky_balls_combo1The Florida Times Union Reports on a dangerous toy that is plaguing local families.  Two local children fell critically ill last week from swallowing pieces of a popular magnetic desk toy, according to Wolfson Children’s Hospital, prompting warnings to Jacksonville parents about the product’s potential health hazards.  The toys ” sets of high-powered ball bearing magnets sometimes sold under the brand name œBuckyballs ” have drawn the attention of federal health officials in recent years because of increasing incidents involving young children swallowing the pieces.
When two or more magnets are swallowed, they can attract each other inside the body, creating small holes in the stomach and intestines, intestinal blockage, blood poisoning and death, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which has taken legal action against companies that sell the toys and proposed new regulatory rules for their sale.
The commission filed suit against New York-based Buckyball manufacturer Maxfield & Oberton Holdings LLC in 2012 over concerns about product defects and potential health hazards.

Since then,  the developer of Buckyballs, Zucker dissolved his business in December 2012.  The CPSC then took the unusual step of filing a lawsuit to hold Zucker personally responsible for a potential recall that could cost up to $57 million, assuming every buyer of the desk toys claims re­imbursement. Zen Magnets and Star Networks USA, which sell similar products, were also named as defendants. In addition to the lawsuit, the commission has proposed a new regulation that would prohibit the sale of small toy magnets exceeding a certain level of attractive force. The agency’s four-member board of commissioners will decide this year  in 2014 whether to adopt the rule.  Zucker, 34, is fighting back. He filed a complaint in federal court in November of 2013 arguing that regulators cannot hold an individual responsible for alleged product-safety issues.

Regardless, the recall of these highly dangerous “toys” is a good thing.  In researching these toys, I found that the CPSC has received reports of toddlers finding loose magnets left within reach and placing them in their mouths. It can be extremely difficult for a parent to tell if any of the tiny magnets are missing from a set. In some of the reported incidents, toddlers have accessed loose magnets left on a refrigerator and other parts of the home.  Use of the product by tweens and teenagers to mimic piercings of the tongue, lip or cheek has resulted in incidents where the product is unintentionally inhaled and swallowed. These ingestion incidents occur when children receive it as a gift or gain access to the product in their homes or from friends.
When two or more magnets are swallowed, they can attract to one another through the stomach and intestinal walls, resulting in serious injuries, such as holes in the stomach and intestines, intestinal blockage, blood poisoning and possibly death. Medical professionals may not diagnose the need for immediate medical intervention in such cases, resulting in worsening of the injuries.

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