CPSC Votes To Commence Rulemaking For High Powered Magnets

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has voted 4 – 0 to commence rulemaking for high-powered magnet sets.  According to the CPSC’s press release, CPSC staff estimate that small, high powered magnet sets were associated with 1,700 emergency room-treated injuries between 2009 and 2011, with the majority of injuries (70%) have been to children 4 to 12 years of age.

Of course, many of these magnet sets are marketed as sculptures, puzzles, and stress relievers and are labeled not for use by children. You may recall that the CPSC recently sued the maker of the Buckyballs and Buckycube desk toys – which were definitely not marketed to kids.  However, CPSC staff believes these magnet sets have strong appeal to children and pose a potential for high-severity injuries.  The CPSC has issued warnings regarding the hazards associated with these high powered magnets.

If swallowed, these magnets can link together inside a child’s intestines and clamp onto body tissues, causing intestinal obstructions, perforations, sepsis and death. Internal damage from magnets can pose serious lifelong health effects.

The CPSC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking indicates that such magnet sets will be prohibited if the set contains more than one magnet that fits through the small parts choking hazard tube unless the flux index is less than 50, as determined by the method set forth in ASTM F963-11.  The proposed rule has a 75 day public comment period.

The CPSC is specifically soliciting comment on the risks posed by magnets in science and craft kits. While I do believe the products with unexpected hazards require appropriate regulation, the key is appropriate regulation. I’m not sure a complete ban, without appropriate exclusions, is appropriate. Certainly I believe that science kits should be able to have high powered magnets, as long as appropriate warnings are provided.  Go comment, please.