CPSC Proposes Federal Magnet Standards

If Swallowed, Small High-Powered Magnets Can Cause Death

MagnetsThe Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted unanimously yesterday to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking aimed at developing a new federal standard for small, high-powered magnet sets. The proposed mandatory standard would set performance requirements for magnet sets based on their size and strength. Magnet sets that do not meet the performance requirement could not be sold as a manipulative or desk accessory.

The CPSC estimates that small, high powered magnet sets were associated with 1,700 emergency room-treated injuries between 2009 and 2011. The majority of injuries (70%) have been to children four to 12 years of age.

"Many of these magnet sets are marketed as sculptures, puzzles, and stress relievers and are labeled not for use by children," the CPSC wrote in a statement released yesterday. "However, these magnet sets have strong appeal to children and pose a potential for high-severity injuries."

The CPSC says that if swallowed, these magnets can link together inside a child's intestines and clamp onto body tissues, causing intestinal obstructions, perforations, sepsis and death. Within the past month, the CPSC has filed lawsuits against two makers of consumer magnet products, and has severely increased its scrutiny of magnet products overall.

The proposed rule instituting new standards for magnets now has a 75-day public comment period before it can be implemented.