Maxfield & Oberton
The manufacturer of the popular magnet desk toy Buckyballs has clashed with the federal government over the safety of the product.
Consumer Product Safety Commission says sales of Buckyballs should be banned because children can swallow the pellet-size magnets. But the company that makes Buckyballs, Maxfield & Oberton, says the product isn’t marketed to children, and vows to keep selling it.
CPSC asked a federal administrative law judge to determine the fate of Buckyballs sales, but it could take at least a year for the issue to be resolved, experts tell Consumers Digest. Maxfield & Oberton CEO Craig Zucker says the company will “vigorously fight” CPSC’s attempt to ban all sales.
Buckyballs can be attached together to form a cube or many other shapes. But CPSC says it received numerous consumer complaints that Buckyballs can cause intestinal damage if they are ingested accidentally. The agency says young children have mistaken the magnets for candy and swallowed them. The agency also cites examples where teenagers used them to mimic facial piercing, but accidentally ingested them.
“We would like to see the firm recall the product because we have exhausted all possibilities in terms of previous recalls,” says CPSC spokesperson Peggy Davis.
No date has been set for the administrative hearing. If the judge determines that Buckyballs is a safety hazard, a mandatory recall can be ordered, says Rachel Weintraub, who is director of product safety and senior council at Consumer Federation of America. However, Maxfield & Oberton can file an appeal if the judge rules against the company. If that happens, Davis says, it could take at least 1 year for a final decision.
Many retailers no longer sell Buckyballs, because of CPSC’s safety warnings. But the product still can be purchased through the company’s website.
CPSC worked with Maxfield & Oberton to issue a voluntary recall of Buckyballs in 2010. The entities also issued a joint consumer-education campaign in 2011 to warn consumers about the product’s potential hazards.
– K. Fanuko