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From Products Liability Law Daily, September 25, 2014

CPSC approves safety standard for high-powered magnet sets

By Joe Bichl

The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to approve a safety standard establishing requirements for magnet sets that have been associated with serious injuries and one reported death. The standard also covers individual magnets that are marketed or intended for use with or as magnet sets.

Background. High-powered magnet sets are sets of small, powerful magnets marketed for general entertainment as construction toys, desk toys, sculpture sets, or stress relievers. Magnets that are part of such sets are often referred to as “magnet balls” or “rare earth magnets.” According to CPSC, these sets are hazardous to young children, who have mouthed and ingested these magnets. “The magnets also pose a serious risk to teens and tweens, who have used them to create mock lip, tongue, and nose piercings,” the CPSC said in a news release.

Magnet sets include approximately 200 magnets, although some sets have up to 1,700 magnets. If multiple magnets are ingested, the magnets attract each other, pinching or trapping intestines or other digestive tissue between them, CPSC warned.

Significant U.S. sales of magnet sets marketed for general entertainment began in 2009. CPSC received the first consumer incident report involving magnet sets in February 2010. The Commission determined that an estimated 2,900 ingestions of magnets from magnet sets were treated in emergency rooms between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2013. In addition, according to CPSC reports, magnet sets were responsible for the death of a 19-month-old girl.

Safety standard requirements. Under the new safety standard, an individual magnet from a magnet set either must be large enough that the magnet does not fit into a CPSC small parts cylinder or the power of the magnetic force must be lower than a specified measure. The Commission has reported that some hazardous magnet sets on the market had a magnetic force that was 37 times greater than what the new performance standard permits.

Magnets manufactured or imported on or after the effective date of the new standard, which is 180 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register, must meet the new performance standard. Once the safety standard becomes effective, the manufacture, importation, distribution or sale of high-powered magnet sets that are subject to the federal standard and do not comply will be illegal, CPSC said.

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