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Buckyballs Go Bye-Bye (and Other Small Things to Avoid Swallowing)

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?

 

Related:
High-Powered Magnets Deadly to Children
8 First Aid Emergencies and the Myths That Make Them Worse
10 Food Items With the Largest Choking Risk for Children

Read more: Blogs, Caregiving, Children, Family, Health & Safety, Parenting at the Crossroads, , , , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

52 comments

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10:10PM PST on Dec 6, 2013

I wonder how many kids die each year from doing stupid things. Just the household chemical deaths alone should make Wal-mart household items area 18 years of age to enter. Try pulling something like this on Dow Chemical because a cleaning agent killed some kids doing things they shouldn't have.

Buckyballs

12:00PM PST on Nov 11, 2012

i swallowed 1 buckyball 4 monhts ago i tries to puke it out i don't know if it went out that way or i might have puked it out or it's stuck somewhere in me ...

7:49PM PDT on Aug 22, 2012

I've never heard of them but if we had them in the house, I would make sure to keep them away from small children. We have lots of dangerous things; tools, equipment and small appliances, bottles of vitamins and aspirin to name a few, both inside and outside. I've taught my children about the dangers and watched them diligently. All 7 made it to adulthood without swallowing anything noxious.

2:52AM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

thanks

2:49PM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

I've never heard of these things, and no one in my family ever swallowed anything when we were growing up, or when my children were growing up. Banning every product that could be a potential problem for someone would likely prove impossible. As tragic as these accidents are, I think that encouraging closer adult supervision is more appropriate than banning products.

10:01PM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

We should do everything we can to preserve this innovative product. Do we ban cleaning products, plastic bags, guns, cars, knives, 5-gallon buckets, nail guns, electrical outlets and anything else that is dangerous to kids? How about we take care of ourselves? That works so much better.

6:57PM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Kids are dorks that put everything in their mouth and don't even mean to swallow the object, but down it goes. I used to put my metal i.d. tag (that was on a necklace) in my mouth and pretend that I was a horse and it was my bit and reins! It's not fair that adults can't have fun things that are safe when used as intended- it's the stupid people who don't watch their kids that ruin it for every one else...

6:52PM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Noted!

4:49PM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Why would an adult parent allow these to be in a home with small children?? I don't agree with the ban.

11:13AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Good grief people. These state ON THE BOX, Not intended for children. If you give your children things not intended for them and then they swallow them and get injured, its only YOUR fault. Are you going to sue 3M because your kids swallowed some thumb tacks? " But they were neon colored so i thought they were for kids" Yes, people would still probably sue and then people would be talking about how thumb tacks are unsafe should only come in a neutral color so kids won’t want to play with them.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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