Buckyballs

bald bucky

Buckyballs are a magnetic toy launched at the New York International Gift Fair in 2009 and sold in the hundreds of thousands before the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall. In several cases, children swallowed them, and injured their intestines, resulting in at least one death. As a result, regulatory agencies banned them, and the magnets are no longer marketed as toys. This led to a debate over the risks of toys and parental responsibility.

In 2009, a number of US companies decided to repackage sphere magnets and sell them as toys. Despite existing toy regulations at the time, Maxfield & Oberton, maker of Buckyballs, told the ‘New York Times’ that he saw the product on YouTube and repackaged them as Buckyballs. After the recall all mentions of ‘toy’ were changed to ‘desk toy,’ positioning the product as a stress-reliever for adults and restricted sales from stores that sold primarily children’s products.

An investigation by the CPSC published in 2012 found an increasing trend of magnet ingestion incidents in young children and teens since 2009. Incidents involving older children and teens were unintentional and the result of mimicking body piercings such as tongue studs. The commission cited hidden complications if more than one magnet becomes attached across tissue inside the body.

Another recall was issued for Buckyballs in 2012 along other similar products marketed as toys. Maxfield & Oberton refused this recall and continued selling their desktop toys. They claimed the rate of injury was approximately 1 per 100,000 Buckyball sets and less than 1 injury per 21.5 million individual magnet pieces. The company launched a political campaign against the CPSC, and Craig Zucker, the company’s co-founder, debated the safety commission on FOX news. In late December of that year the Maxfield & Oberton dissolved.

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