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CPSC attempting to ban "Buckyballs"

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Buckyballs, which are powerful magnets, are intended for people ages 14 and up; below that age, and one might be too inclined to put the toy in one's mouth, and having multiple powerful magnets in one's digestive system can create problems if two magnets end up physically close to one another with digestive organs in between the magnets, perforating intestines.

The company only markets its toy to adults, but the CPSC wants to ban their sale entirely, filing an administrative complaint. (If one reads press coverage without care, one doesn't realize that the goods have not yet been banned, though most retailers have been mau-maued into dropping the product.) The CPSC's complaint cites one instance where (a) a parent ignored the warning and purchased the toy for a 10-year-old daughter; (b) the daughter ignored the product warning and put some magnets in her mouth to mimic a tongue piercing; and (c) then swallowed the magnets. Thus, because the warnings get ignored, "the Subject Products are defective." The company, which would be driven out of business, is fighting back. [Abnormal Use; Buckyball press release; Time; AP; USA Today]

I'm surprised that this hasn't picked up more headlines and controversy. One can imagine lots of products that are not marketed to children, yet result in death and injury because of a combination of inattentive parenting and childish misuse—guns being the most obvious example. (The ATF, not the CPSC, regulates guns, but there are those who have called for guns to be put in the CPSC's bailiwick.) If government can withhold products adults want and most use safely because of the foolishness of less than 0.01% of the end users, the resulting nanny-statism can make most of us much worse off. This sort of paternalism separates the Obama administration from its opponents (and not just in product-safety regulation, but in financial products as well), and one wishes the Republicans (and common-sense Democrats) would make more of an issue on this rather than leaving banks and businesses to defend themselves.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.