Toddler's Death May Spur Desk-Toy Magnet Ban

19-month-old swallowed 'Buckyball'-type magnets

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 4, 2014 2:22 AM CDT | Updated Sep 7, 2014 10:33 AM CDT

(Newser) – The small rare-earth magnets best known as "Buckyballs" are too dangerous to young children to remain on the market, staff at the Consumer Product Safety Commission have decided. Regulators—who vote on a recommendation to ban the desk-toy magnets later this month unless they're large enough to not be considered a choking hazard—have revealed that some 7,700 emergency room visits have been caused by children swallowing the powerful magnets, and they caused the horrific death of a 19-month-old girl last year, USA Today reports. Annaka Chaffin swallowed seven magnets from a necklace and died when they attached to each other inside her, perforating her bowel.

Doctors first believed a virus was making Annaka unwell, but she died the day after a hospital visit after being found with blood coming from her nose and mouth. An autopsy found the magnets. "This case illustrates how difficult it is to diagnose the injuries associated with ingested magnets: The symptoms seemed to indicate a common stomach ailment or poisoning," the CPSC says. The founder of Buckyballs dissolved the company in 2012—after slamming a recall as "government gone absurd"—and now sells larger "Liberty Balls" that regulators consider less dangerous. According to Vice, the founder of Zen Magnets, which still sells the smaller magnets, said last month that he plans to battle "the CPSC's magnet prohibition until triumph, or until a glorious death of insolvency on the legal battlefield." (The deaths of two kids recently prompted a massive bean bag chair recall.)

This image released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission shows Buckyballs, a high-powered desktop magnetic toy for adults.
This image released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission shows Buckyballs, a high-powered desktop magnetic toy for adults.   (AP Photo/CPSC)
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