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Federal Agency Seeks to Ban High-Powered Magnet Toys

A new type of magnetic toy became popular in the last few years. Powered by intense rare-earth magnets, the toys consist of a set of small, shiny magnetic spheres. The strength of the magnets allows users to create striking sculptures and shapes out of the spheres, held together by nothing but magnetism.

The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission is now responding to safety concerns, however, and plans to ban the magnets. The magnets apparently caused serious injuries in a number of small children over the past few years and the CPSC is worried that the magnets are unreasonably dangerous products.

Between 2009 and 2011, more than 1,700 people sought treatment in emergency rooms after ingesting the tiny magnets. Although the magnets themselves are small, the danger lies in their intense strength. If a person ingests more than one of the spheres, the magnetism is strong enough to pull them together inside the body. This can cause extremely painful and life-threatening injuries if internal organs come between the magnets.

The agency is particularly concerned about small children eating large amounts of the magnets. The magnets can potentially cause very serious damage to a child's digestive system.

After the CPSC finishes reviewing the matter, it may ban all magnet toy sets composed of small parts if the magnets exceed a particularly strength measurement.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Kids' Swallowing Magnets Concerns Agency," Tish Kraft, Sept. 6, 2012

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