Parents worried about the limitless list of things that can harm their kids can add one more to the list: Buckyballs.
Health Canada this week banned these high powered magnets, citing concerns that the small spheres, which can be combined into all sorts of shapes, could cause serious internal damage – either by pinching or blocking intestinal tissue – if swallowed.
I have only one question for Health Canada: what took you so long?
Last July, the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the U.S. sued the manufacturer, Maxfield & Oberton after concluding the magnets presented a “substantial product hazard”. The CPSC said product warnings were insufficient, and ordered the company to pull the magnets from stores, provide refunds and add marketing copy to retailers’ web sites to warn consumers away from the product. The stop-sale order, the CPSC’s first in over a decade, also claimed the packaging wasn’t childproof, and the product made it impossible for parents to determine if one of the magnets was missing.
The risks weren’t limited to small children, either. Teenagers were known to use the magnets to simulate tongue piercings, only to accidentally swallow the product and have to have it surgically removed.
In its lawsuit, CPSC said Buckyballs and Buckycubes present a “substantial product hazard” and that warnings are not effective. The commission asked the company to stop selling the products, refund consumers’ money and post a notice on online sellers’ sites stating the product is defective. CPSC also charged the packaging is defective because it isn’t childproof, and parents can’t tell if a magnet is missing.
Maxfield & Oberton initially defended its product, calling the CPSC action unfair and claiming its products were clearly marketed to the 14-and-over set. Things went decidedly downhill for the company from there, and it ceased operations in December and said any additional claims against the company would be handled by trustees.
Yet Canadians could still buy the dangerous magnets if they could find them. This week’s announcement by Health Canada closes an obvious gap and minimizes the potential for any remaining examples in the supply chain to find their way onto store shelves. That said, you can apparently still find them for sale online.
Still, it shouldn’t take Canadian authorities almost nine months to follow their American counterparts’ lead. While there haven’t been additional injuries north of the border since the magnets were banned in the U.S., the point is Canadian consumers were allowed to purchase a product that had already been banned by American regulators. As drastic a move as this is, it nevertheless shouldn’t take months of study for Canadians to follow suit. Consumers here deserve better.