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Small But Deadly Desk Toys

by Stanford Magnets

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recently requested for a recall on all bucky balls. They claim that bucky balls are a danger to children. Bucky balls are small round, magnetic desk toys. They were designed as desk toys for procrastinating adults, but unfortunately they have been getting into the hands of children. Bucky balls look harmless, but the reality is they are made of strong neodymium magnets. According to the experts at Stanford Magnets; "these magnets are strong enough to be used in a range of electrical and mechanical devices, ranging from electric motors, to MRI scans, to speakers. They are an extremely useful rare-earth magnet". However as they can be molded into different shapes and sizes, they can be easily mistaken for sweets by children. Bucky balls in particular are small, round and shiny. If a child swallows a magnet it will probably cause little harm; but if anyone swallows more than one, then it has been reported that these magnets are strong enough to pinch between organs.

In fact the CPSC reported that from 2009 to 2011 bucky balls and other high-powered magnetic toys have been linked to 1,700 emergency room visits. It is for this reason that they requested a recall for all bucky balls. The CPSC went a step further to try to force Craig Zucker, the former chief executive of the company that marketed Bucky balls, to pay an estimated $57 million in costs related to a recall. It is this action that has caused a backlash. The complaint, prepared by Cause of Action, a legal group that supports limited government, alleges that the CPSC targeted Zucker for speaking out against the agency. It also says the CPSC violated Zucker's right to free speech and due process when it retaliated against him, setting a "chilling" precedent for other corporate executives who publicly disagree with the federal government.

Craig Zucker argues that the Bucky balls were marketed as adult desk toys to relieve stress; they were never intended for children. Furthermore the responsibility of the child should lay with the parents and not the manufacturer or the marketing company. They went further by raising the valid point that detergents and other household products are of equal danger to children if digested. Even though these items may carry warning signs - as did the bucky balls - they are not necessarily going to prevent a child from swallowing them. The problem therefore isn't one of magnets, but rather a question or child supervision and parental responsibility.

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