CPSC Sues Zen Magnets over Hazardous High-Powered Magnetic Balls

CPSC Sues Zen Magnets over Hazardous High-Powered Magnetic Balls
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In an effort to prevent children from suffering further harm, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has filed an administrative complaint against Zen Magnets LLC.

CPSC alleges that the company's products contain defects in design, packaging, warnings and instructions, all of which pose a substantial risk of injury to the public.

The official complaint filed by the commission seeks, among other things, an order that the firm stops selling Zen Magnets Rare Earth Magnet Balls, notifies the public of the defect and offers consumers a full refund.

Eleven manufacturers and/or importers of sets of small, powerful, individual magnets, all of which are made in China, have voluntarily agreed to the CPSC's requests that they stop the manufacture, import, distribution and sale of their magnet products. Zen Magnets and Maxfield & Oberton (importer of Buckyballs and Buckycubes) are the only companies that have refused to comply.

Zen Magnets are powerful, chrome-plated, rare earth magnet balls about 5 millimeters in diameter that are sold online in sets of 72, 216, and 1,728.

The CPSC complaint explains that when two or more magnets are swallowed, they can pinch or trap the intestinal walls or other digestive tissue between them resulting in acute and long-term health consequences. Such conditions can lead to infection, sepsis and possibly death.

The Commission has also received reports of tweens and teenagers using similar products to mimic piercings of the tongue, lip or cheek which have resulted in incidents where the product is unintentionally inhaled and swallowed.

The complaint alleges that in 2009 and 2010, the firm advertised and marketed the product as 'fun to play with' strong rare earth magnets that 'look good on cute people.' It further alleges that in October 2011, CPSC notified the firm that the product did not comply with the federal mandatory toy standard, ASTM Standard F963-08. The standard requires that such magnets not be marketed for children younger than 14.

In 2011, Zen Magnets began to advertise their product as a 'magnetic science kit.' While the packaging warns that 'strong magnets can cause fatal intestinal pinching,' and advises to 'keep away from kids and pets who don't understand these dangers,' it also cautions consumers to 'place swallowing magnets on your don't do list along with breathing water, drinking poison, and running into traffic.'

CPSC alleges in its complaint that Zen Magnets warning and labeling are defective because they do not effectively communicate the hazard associated with ingestion of the product. The complaint further alleges that the product's design and packaging are also defective because they fail to prevent children from gaining access to the product, and do not allow parents or caregivers to know readily if a magnet is missing and is potentially within the reach of a young child.

The Commission proposed the administrative complaint against Zen Magnets after discussions with the company failed to result in a voluntary recall plan that CPSC considered adequate. CPSC seeks the remedies outlined in the complaint to stop further incidents and injuries to children.