Buckyballs Go Bye-Bye (and Other Small Things to Avoid Swallowing)
Really, everyone has some sort of story from childhood that involves ingesting some small inedible thing that they should have kept far from their mouth. I have a relative that, as a young child, stuck a marble up her nose and wasn’t able to get it out without medical intervention. My cousin swallowed a few beads that “looked like candy” and I remember seeing a classmate eat a perfumed eraser that looked and smelled like bubblegum. Even Homer Simpson, of the famed Simpsons TV show, lived for decades with a forgotten crayon stuck up his nose. The fact is, childhood is as much about sticking things up your nose and swallowing stuff as it is about birthday cake, skinned knees, and stuffed animals.
A few years ago, a toy called Buckyballs hit the market. These are tiny ball-bearing-sized rare earth magnets that hold together like, well… like magnets. They have become hugely popular as a “desk toy” (this means something for bored adults to play with) as well as something for kids to toy with. But even though this product is clearly labeled with warnings about choking hazards and not allowing children to partake in the fun, it seems the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued its first stop-sale order in 11 years, saying the magnetic toys called Buckyballs “pose a substantial risk of injury to the public.” Why, you ask? Well, unlike beads and crayons, if you ingest more than one magnet (not just a Buckyball, but any magnet), you could do irreparable damage to your GI tract. One Buckyball down the hatch would probably cause some discomfort, while two or more might be the end of you. The CPSC has been trying to institute a recall for over two years now, claiming that these balls present a very sizable risk. “Since 2009, CPSC staff has learned of more than two dozen ingestion incidents, with at least one dozen involving Buckyballs,” the CPSC said in a statement. “Surgery was required in many of incidents. The Commission staff alleges in its complaint that it has concluded that despite the attempts to warn purchasers, warnings and education are ineffective and cannot prevent injuries and incidents with these rare earth magnets.”
At the moment it looks like this may spell the end of the Buckyball empire, but the company website (as of this posting) is still selling the toy.
What is your feeling on an outright ban on a toy not marketed to children, but that poses a risk to children? Does it make good sense, or is it overkill? Is it up to the parent to supervise and/or keep these toys away from curious hands and mouths, or is it up to the toy company to make sure their product doesn’t pose a risk? And finally, what is the weirdest thing you ever swallowed?