CPSC Issues Standards For High-Powered Magnets

In the wake of nearly 3,000 reported injuries over the last five years, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has approved a new national safety standard governing the size and strength of high-powered magnets.

The new standard mandates that an individual magnet (from a magnet set) either must be large enough that it doesn’t fit into a CPSC small parts cylinder or the power of its magnetic force must be lower than a specified measure. The standard will apply to any high-powered magnets manufactured or imported after April 1 of next year.

“That cylinder is a tad smaller than the diameter of a toilet paper roll,” Leeton Lee, vice president of regulatory compliance at Top 40 supplier ETS Express (asi/51197), said ASI Radio’s Tuesday Morning Show in early October. “So imagine how big that magnet has to be to be legal to sell in the U.S.”

The new magnet strength standard is more ambiguous, although the CPSC says certain magnet sets that were previously available had a force 37 times greater than the new allowance. The CPSC said the magnets, which have been used in desk accessory sets as well as games and other items, have been the cause of 2,900 emergency-room treated injuries and one death from 2009 to 2013. The magnets are especially hazardous to young children.

“If they swallow two or more of them,” said Lee, “those magnets can bond together inside the intestines and tear the intestinal wall and cause hemorrhaging and toxic buildup.” In addition, they pose a threat to tweens and teens who, according to the CPSC, “have used them to create mock lip, tongue, and nose piercings.”

Over two months ago, the CPSC issued a formal recall of Buckyballs, a popular magnetic set made from rare-earth metals. It was the conclusion of a two-year fight by the agency to remove the product from the market, which had never been directly marketed to children but still posed a health hazard. – DV