Fri, Sep 07, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Parents warned about magnetic balls

By Yang Chiu-ying and Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

A man holds up candies and a Buckyball next to shapes made from the desk toy on Wednesday.

Photo: Yang Chiu-ying, Taipei Times

The Consumer Protection Commission has issued a safety warning about Buckyballs, a popular high-powered magnetic desk toy, which says that swallowing the tiny magnets could lead to intestinal perforation, blood poisoning and death.

Along with officials from the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection, the commission cautioned parents to keep the magnets — which are just 0.5cm in diameter — away from young children, as the product could exert up to 4,000 gauss (a unit of measurement of an object’s magnetic field), which is 80 times more than the maximum international safety level of 50 gauss.

“Buckyballs have resulted in numerous tragic accidents overseas due to their strong magnetic force. The government has demanded that domestic retailers pull the product from the shelves so that a warning label can be put on each box and on the selling counter to avoid selling them as a toy,” an official said.

The warning was issued after the commission received a note from the nation’s representative office in the US, saying that the powerful magnets had caused dozens of deaths or injuries among children and teenagers in the US alone over the past three years.

Commission Director-General Liu Ching-fang (劉清芳) said that since Buckyballs were not categorized as toys, they were not subject to the mandatory inspection made on toys or to regulations about toy labeling.

Because of this, most Buckyballs sold in Taiwan did not carry a warning label, Liu said, with some retailers even marketing them as baubles on online platforms.

“In light of the aforementioned irregularities, the commission has instructed the Ministry of Economic Affairs to look into the matter and implement disciplinary measures if necessary. In the meantime, parents should alert children aged 14 or younger to the danger of putting the magnetic balls inside their months or nostrils,” she said.

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