Action prompted by ongoing harm to children from ingested magnets
In an effort to prevent children from suffering further harm, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff filed an administrative complaint today against Maxfield & Oberton Holdings LLC, of New York, N.Y., alleging that Buckyballs® and Buckycubes™ contain a defect in the design, packaging, warnings, and instructions, which pose a substantial risk of injury to the public. The Commission voted 3-1 to approve the filing of the complaint, which seeks, among other things, an order that the firm stops selling Buckyballs® and Buckycubes™, notify the public of the defect, and offer consumers a full refund. This type of legal action against a company is rare, as this is only the second administrative complaint filed by CPSC in the past 11 years.
The Commission staff filed the administrative complaint against Maxfield & Oberton after discussions with the company and its representatives failed to result in a voluntary recall plan that CPSC staff considered to be adequate.
In November 2011, CPSC and Maxfield & Oberton worked cooperatively to inform and educate consumers that Buckyballs® were intended for adult use only, and although the risk scenarios differ by age group, the danger when multiple rare earth magnets are ingested is the same. However, even after the safety alert, ingestions and injuries continued to occur.
In response to a request from CPSC staff, a number of retailers have voluntarily agreed to stop selling Buckyballs®, Buckycubes™, and similar products manufactured by other companies. CPSC staff called upon these retailers to cease distribution of high-powered, manipulative magnetic products after dozens of young children and teenagers swallowed multiple magnets, which connected inside their gastrointestinal tracts and caused internal injuries requiring surgery. The online marketplace eBay has also agreed to implement steps to remove listings by sellers for these items.
When two or more magnets are swallowed, they can attract to one another through the stomach and intestinal walls, resulting in serious injuries, such as holes in the stomach and intestines, intestinal blockage, blood poisoning and possibly death. Medical professionals may not diagnose the need for immediate medical intervention in such cases, resulting in worsening of the injuries.
Maxfield and Oberton Founder & CEO Speaks Out
As quoted in a CBS News article, Craig Zucker, Founder and CEO of Maxfield and Oberton, which manufactures Buckyballs® and Buckycubes™, said in a statement . . .”Obviously the bureaucrats see danger everywhere, and those responsible people – like our company who have vigorously promoted safety and appropriate use of our products – gets put out of business by an unfair and arbitrary process . . . I don’t understand how and why they did this without following their own rules before allowing us to make our case. It almost seems like they simply wanted to put our products and industry out of business.”
Maxfield and Oberton pointed out that they made an educational video detailing the dangers of swallowing Buckyballs® and Buckycubes™ in compliance with the CPSC’s requests nine months ago. They claimed that the CPSC’s action against their $50 million company “unfair, unjust and un-American,” especially since there have been less than two dozen misuse cases. While balloons – which were previously determined to be a health hazard by the CPSC – are allowed to be sold as long as they come with an advisory saying “adult supervision required,” their product, which has five clearly labeled warnings on its box, is being taken off the shelves, they argued.
“As a small business owner I’m left wondering what to tell my employees and their families. How can this happen in America?” Zucker said.
To see this release on CPSC’s web site, including links to various documents associated with the release, please go to: