Buckyballs banned in the U.S. Will Canada follow suit?


Buckyballs and their nearly identical competitor, Nanodots, are very popular magnetic “toys” that let you create a nearly infinite amount of 3D shapes by combining tiny magnetic spheres into different layouts. But those magnets are made from rare-earth neodymium and are incredibly strong given their diminutive size and that presents a serious danger to children.

There is a very real possibility that a child could accidentally ingest two or more of the magnets and, once in the digestive tract, they could cause serious damage to internal organs as they trap tissue between them, or become lodged permanently. Pets are also at risk.

Because of this, both Buckyballs and Nanodots have issued very clear and strongly worded warnings to adults that these construction kits not be given to children or kept anywhere children can access them.

This is good advice, but apparently it’s not good enough. USA Today reports that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has filed suit against the maker of Buckyballs and that retailers have responded by pulling the product from store shelves.

According to their article,

Dozens of children have ingested the tiny magnets in Buckyballs and similar products sold by competitors. At least 12 of the ingestions involved Buckyballs and many required surgeries.

Reuters is reporting that the CPSC has taken the unprecedented move of ordering the manufacturer to cease distribution of the product, something the commission hasn’t done since 2001.

In Canada, the product is sold by Chapters-Indigo and can also be purchased online.

A few years ago, I was sent a sample of Nanodots to try out and was amazed by the way the balls could be assembled. I decided, in spite of the warning, to let my then eight-year-old son to try them out under my close supervision. He adored them. It wasn’t long before he was creating some truly amazing 3D creations. But my wife and I made it clear that the product was dangerous and needed to be handled with great care.

Thankfully, nothing bad has ever happened in our home and my son has continued to show great responsibility in his handling of the product. But I have noticed that even with care, it’s easy for the little balls to escape one’s grip and end up rolling under a piece of furniture. That’s not where you want a super-strong, tiny magnet living for any length of time.

This ban hasn’t changed my decision, but it does serve as an excellent reminder to anyone who has this product or is considering buying it: please exercise extreme caution when handling them – the danger is real.

[USA Today via Gizmodo]

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140 comments

  1. Steven Rowlandson

    I will admit it I am in a bad mood over government and human stupidity and the idea that banning ownership and posession of things is pretty close to the ultimate in stupidity. Infact it reveals the satanic communist mentality at work in society that puts forward the idea that human behavior can be corrected or perfected by stealing their goods or preventing them from buying things they enjoy. Things are not stupid and evil but people can be. I am not a people person.
    Instead of banning Buckyballs and other stuff that people like how about exercising some caution and common sense for a change. It is cheaper ,creates less paperwork and would do more to improve society than creating more annoying and useless laws and regulations.

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    • Simon Cohen

      Interesting. I can only find other news articles related to this “AdversiveTech” treatment (all of which were written after this article) and not a formal press release from the company. Even their safety section of their website is silent on the matter. Presumably this is a new idea formulated as a response to the CPSC’s proposed ban on BuckyBalls.

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  2. Pseudos

    Sonic, the word is tyranny not terrany – I always find it interesting that people who defend gun culture, seldom have an education standard beyond fifth grade. Also just to clarify, the most effective way to challenge government policy in pursuit of freedom is not with hordes (please notice there is an e in hordes) of gun toting rednecks, but with mass peaceful protest. Please look up Ghandi or Martin Luther King as examples. Actually how about you march on Washington carrying firearms with your buddies and let me know how that goes.

    How the hell an article about child safety becomes about gun laws is beyond me. From my experience of American children, anything that isn’t nailed down will be consumed by them; so in the absence of sensible parenting I guess banning the product is the only solution – shame about the job losses that are bound to follow.

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  3. Cashme

    Problem: x caused by cultural forces that allow(assume something to be ok)people to do stupid things involving x be it balls, guns or anything else.

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  4. Ed Dahorse

    These are ball bearings not buckyballs. Buckyballs are a unique molecular shape and form of carbon. They were named after Buckminister Fuller because they resembled his geodesic domes. Whoever called these buckyballs stole the name and should be sued by the estate of Buckminister Fuller and the American Chemical Society. On the other subject, banning banning banning turns your country into the Soviet Union. Better to mandate large warnings on the products and allow choice to drive the market. After all, if legislators were REALLY concerned about human health, threy would have banned tobacco a gazillion years ago.

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  5. Jojo

    “The kid who swallows too many marbles does not grow up to have kids of his own.” -George Carlin (re: Natural Selection)

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  6. Harriet

    It’s not just this toy that can be a danger to children and animals. Our dog chewed one of those magnetic bracelets that are suppose to be good for your arthritis. The two magnets stuck together in her bowels and after 3 grand worth of surgery, almost dying and a few feet of intestines missing, our dog survived. After 4 years she still suffers from some problems:..we have to watch what we feed her because her tummy is easily upset..and sometimes we come home from work to messes that make you want to cry.

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  7. barry

    Does this over blown crap mean that every thing that has caused harm maimed or killed anyone or thing should be banned Gov. regulated or resricted? If so don’t forget to include games where people stuff their mouths with marshmellows and then trying to talk, or windows in highrise apt. buildings that children pets and adults fall out of! It’s called common sense !!

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  8. William

    Hello: Those magnets are extreamly dangerous. We have every day children that had ingest a objets like coins, but the magnetic ones are different, if they take tissues in betwin will couse gangrena that require surgery to repair the organ afected.

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  9. pamela

    so we should ban all small things? ban kitchen magnets? might as well ban everything then, things get banned because of stupid parents, same as they banned baby walkers cause kids fell down the stairs duh, block your stairs it wasnt the walkers fault it was the parents, americans need to worry more about banning guns than toys

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