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Inspections of Buckyballs to be mandatory

By Chen Yi-chia and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Highly magnetic “Buckyballs” are displayed at a news conference by the Executive Yuan’s Consumer Protection Committee in Taipei on Sep. 5, 2012.

Photo: Yang Chiu-ying, Taipei Times

“Buckyballs” — magnetic balls sold as toys — are to be subject to mandatory inspections starting on Oct. 1, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said, after the introduction of warning labels in 2012 failed to prevent cases of children swallowing the magnets.

Often marketed as educational toys, Buckyballs are said to stimulate creativity and improve logical reasoning, the Consumer Protection Committee said.

However, the potential risks should not be underestimated, it said.

Buckyballs have a magnetic strength of more than 4,000 gauss, or 80 times the international standard, and as they are small, children could accidentally swallow them, it said.

Swallowing Buckyballs could result in gastrointestinal perforation, blood poisoning or even death, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has said.

From December 2010 to March last year, there were 124 known cases of children being taken to hospital after swallowing the magnetic toys, the Japan Times reported, citing the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan.

In 2017, the US reported 109 cases of Buckyballs being swallowed, the committee said.

About 80 percent of children who swallowed Buckyballs in Japan were under the age of three, compared with about 53 percent in the US, it said.

In both countries, children under the age of one were involved in most of the incidents, it added.

From 2017 to last year, there were three cases of children swallowing Buckyballs in Taiwan, the committee said.

The incidents occurred even after the committee, in collaboration with the ministry, required that sellers comply with the Commodity Labeling Act (商品標示法) by including warnings on the dangers of swallowing the toy.

To safeguard children’s health and safety, the committee hosted several meetings requesting the ministry to step up measures to control the situation, the committee said.

As a result, the ministry decided to include Buckyballs on a list of toys subject to mandatory inspection, it said.

From October, Buckyballs must pass inspections before they can be sold in the market, it said, adding that the ministry would carry out stricter sampling inspections of the product.

Consumers should pay attention to the warning labels when purchasing Buckyballs, and parents should prevent children under the age of 14 from putting the small, higher-powered magnets into their mouths or noses, it said.

If a child accidentally ingests magnetic parts, they should be sent to the hospital immediately to avoid delays in treatment from causing further damage, the committee added.

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