Entries in Choking Hazard (3)


Is Proposed Recall on Magnet Toys Unfair?

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Buckyballs, a toy made up of small magnetic beads that can be molded into different shapes, is one of the most popular office toys on the market.

Marketed to adults as a stress reliever and a cure for cubicle boredom, more than two million Buckyballs have been sold in the United States. The beads are shiny, sculptural and irresistible to play with, but they can also be dangerous.

At just 20 months old, Presley Bjarnson was hospitalized after he swallowed 18 Buckyball beads last month. His mother, Laura Bjarnson, who said she never saw the warning labels on the toy's packaging, had accidentally left the toy out where Presley could reach it.

When she discovered Presley with the toy, Bjarnson said she didn't know at the time if her son had swallowed the magnets. But Bjarnson, who is a registered nurse, took Presley to the pediatrician the following day as a precaution. An X-ray showed a ring of 18 Buckyballs lodged in his stomach.

As these high-power magnetic beads travel through the body, doctors say they can stick together, pinching tissue and ultimately puncturing holes in the thin intestinal lining.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Presley is just one of an estimated 1,700 people who have been hospitalized in the past three years after ingesting these kinds of magnets. As a result, the CPSC is demanding that Buckyballs and several high-power magnetic toys from other companies be recalled immediately.

But Buckyballs CEO Craig Zucker is not willing to give in.

"This is the first time in 11 years a company has said to the commission, 'We don't agree a recall is necessary,'" he said.

The company is challenging the proposed ban because, Zucker argues, Buckyballs are not defective and they are marketed as an office toy, clearly not intended for or marketed to children.

"We're not in Happy Meals. We're not on Saturday morning cartoons. We're in adult stores … places you would go to find something for your dad on Father's Day," Zucker said.

By demanding he stop selling his product, Zucker believes the CPSC has gone too far. In the wake of the proposed ban, he launched an online campaign called "Save Our Balls," which has sparked a national debate on the role of big government.

Zucker said his company has tried to reach a compromise with the government. Namely, he has taken steps to educate consumers about magnet safety and pointed out that Buckyballs packaging carries clear warnings to parents.

"[Warning labels are] on the top, the side, the carrying case. It's on the instructions," he said. "I would say it's impossible to miss the warnings. They're all over the place."

But the CPSC said these warning labels do not go far enough because they don't "travel with the product," meaning once the toy is removed from the packaging, there is nothing to expose its potential dangers or stop children from "facing serious injuries."

Presley Bjarnson, who was eventually rushed to the hospital where doctors were able to remove the 18 Buckyballs without major surgery, has since made a full recovery.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission wants to regulate the production of future magnetic office toy products to make them safer by making magnets larger, so they are more difficult to swallow, and less powerful.

In the meantime, they are determined to get all existing toys out of kids' hands and off store shelves as soon as possible.

For now, Buckyballs can still be purchased in specialty stores and on the company's website. Zucker said he is holding out hope for a compromise.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Experts Warn of Magnet Dangers in Children

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Small yet powerful magnets are becoming an increasing safety risk in children. And now, a new report published in the Lancet discusses two more cases in which U.K. children became ill after ingesting the pieces.

Dr. Anil Thomas George of Queen's Medical Centre at Nottingham University Hospitals in the U.K. describes the "widespread availability" of cheap magnetic toys that contain the parts that become easily detached and consumed by children.

"While we understand that it may be impossible to prevent small children from occasionally swallowing objects, we would highlight to parents the potential harm that could arise from multiple magnet ingestion," George said in a statement. "We would advise parents to be more vigilant and take extra care when giving their children toys that may contain magnets small enough to swallow.

"We would also welcome an increased awareness of this problem among toy manufacturers, who have a responsibility to alert parents to the presence of magnets in their products," he continued.

Incidents of children and teenagers accidentally ingesting high-powered magnets have been on the rise in recent years, Kim Dulic, a spokesperson for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, told ABC News in March. And most of the magnets are so small that it's difficult to notice if one or two go missing in a sofa or on the floor.

"The popularity of these products are growing, and it's resulting in an increasing amount of incidents," said Dulic.

One incident of ingesting magnets was reported in 2009, seven in 2010 and 14 through October 2011 in the U.S. The ages of these cases ranged from 18 months to 15 years, and 11 required surgical removal of the magnets.

The availability of toys with small magnetic elements has increased, George wrote in the report. And, since magnetic tongue rings and lip piercings in which two high-powered magnets sit on both sides of the lip or tongue have also become more popular in recent years, teenagers are also at risk, the CPSC warns.

Button-size batteries, found in remote controls, toys, calculators and bathroom scales, have also led to accidental ingestions.

"The difference between magnets and these batteries is that you can see symptoms within two hours of swallowing them," said Dulic. "It burns the esophagus and it can start soon after."

And, while the CPSC created new regulations in 2008 for children's products that contain magnets, the rules do not extend to adult products, which are also known to contain the pieces.

"We've found that a lot of teens are getting these at school, so parents should be sure to notify their teens as to what's happening with these products," said Dulic. "They can just be really dangerous."

"We believe that improvement in public awareness about this risk will be key in preventing such incidents," said George.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Toys That Meet Safety Standards Can Still Pose Choking Hazards

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The holiday shopping season kicks off in earnest Friday, and if there are little kids on your list, there's an important warning you should know about.  The U.S. Public Interest Research Group says some toys can pose a choking hazard, even if they may meet legal safety standards.

Take for instance ABC White House correspondent Jake Tapper's son, who had a close call with such a toy.  The toy in question -- a toy train with removable wooden pegs -- had been in the house less than 24 hours when it happened.

"The block went into his throat like this," Jennifer Tapper, Jack's mother, said.  "And Jack just looked at me with his eyes open like this -- panicking.  And I bent down and I said, 'Jack, Jack.'  And I could not see the block in his mouth.  And that was the moment of huge terror for me, because what was I going to do?"

Jennifer Tapper flipped her 1-year-old son over and hit him on the back, just like she had learned in CPR class, forcing the peg out.

When Haba, the manufacturer, heard about Jack Tapper's close call, it responded immediately, filing a report with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and stopped shipment of the trains to stores.

But it turns out the train met the 1 1/4-inch wide by 2 1/4-inch long safety standard for small parts.  The measurement was established in 1979 and hasn't been updated since.

Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a paper describing "current gaps in choking prevention standards" and called for revisions.  The Academy cited a gap between the 1 1/4-inch width required of regular small parts and the wider 1 3/4-inch width required for balls.  Balls are more strongly regulated because their round shape gives them the potential to be particularly hazardous -- they can completely fill up and block a child's airway.

The Academy also noted that many other small round and oval objects are not subject to the larger ball size requirement, even though they pose the same risk, because technically they are not balls.  The paper singled out cylinders as another shape that could pose a heightened risk of suffocation because of the way they fit in a child's airway.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio