Warning of the Dangers of Buckyballs

Warning of the Dangers of Buckyballs

Parents of small children should beware of a hazardous desktop toy called Buckyballs, which are tiny magnetic balls made from a rare earth element called neodymium. If children accidentally swallow the balls, the powerful magnets can become attached to one another inside the intestines or stomach walls, causing serious injuries or even death.

What are Buckyballs?

Buckyballs are small spheres, the size of BBs, and have been manufactured as an educational, stress-reliever product for adults. Users can mold the magnetic balls into different sorts of shapes and sculptures to prevent boredom.

Unlike other magnets that contain iron-based materials, Buckyballs are made of neodymium, a permanent magnet made from alloy. The strong attraction of each magnet draws them together forcefully.

Buckyballs come in a set of 216 magnets. One set of silver Buckyballs costs $35, while multi-color sets cost $40 each. Since launching in 2009, an estimated 2.5 million sets have been sold.

Watch YouTube Video: 4 Cool Trick to Do with Buckyballs. This video demonstrates how 216 Buckyballs can be formed into different shapes.

Mandatory Recall of Buckyballs

While these desktop toys were marketed for adults, they usually end up in the hands of children.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a recall on the magnets in 2014 and made it illegal to sell them after multiple cases of children swallowing them were reported. According to the Commission, emergency rooms across the U.S. have reported an estimated 1,700 incidents of unintentional swallowing since 2009.

Appeals Court Overturned Recall 

The recall was intended to protect children from the risk of injury that can occur when multiple magnets are swallowed. However, a higher court overturned the decision in 2016 and made it legal for retailers to sell them again. The judge ruled that when the CPSC made the decision, the dangers associated with the magnet balls were exaggerated and the benefits of the toys were disregarded.

A Look at the Dangers of Buckyballs

When two or more of these Buckyball magnets are swallowed, the force between the balls is pulled together. When that happens in the gut, it can draw two parts of the digestive tract like the stomach and intestine together and create holes.

If it happens in the stomach and the upper part of the small intestines, doctors can usually insert a long tube with a camera through the patient’s mouth to remove the magnets. If the balls are in the large intestine or farther down in the small intestine, surgery may be required.

Since magnetic lip piercings and tongue rings have become more popular in recent years, the CPSC is warning parents that teenagers are also at risk.

Watch YouTube Video: Danger of Buckyballs. This video explains what happens when kids ingest popular magnets like Buckyballs.

Reported Cases of Buckyballs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33 reported cases required surgery, and one case resulted in death. A few key cases are highlighted below:

In 2012, a 3-year-old Oregonian girl nearly died when she swallowed 37 magnets, which caused four holes in her gastrointestinal system. The little girl had complained about stomach pain. Initially, her parents thought she only had a stomachache, but when her symptoms continued, they took her to the hospital. An X-ray revealed a round group of magnets in her stomach. The balls had snapped her intestines together which caused a hole in her stomach and three holes in her intestine.

In 2014, a 19-month old girl died when she swallowed seven magnetic balls. The toddler was found unresponsive, and blood was coming from her nose and mouth. She was pronounced dead at the hospital. An autopsy found magnets in her small intestine. The magnets were linked together which punctured her bowel and caused it to become infected.

In 2017, a 2-year-old Colorado toddler swallowed 28 Buckyball magnets and narrowly avoided surgery. According to a news report, the little girl’s father had left the magnets on his desk when he stepped away from the room to use the bathroom. When he returned, he found his daughter holding the balls. Even though the little girl didn’t show any symptoms, the parents rushed her to the hospital to get checked out. An x-ray confirmed that the toddler did indeed swallow the magnets. The balls had linked together, forming a ball inside her gut. Two magnets were pinching her bowel and causing an early formation of a hole. The doctor inserted a special tube called an endoscopy through her mouth and was able to successfully remove the balls.

Watch YouTube Video: 5-Year-Old Seriously Injured After Swallowing Buckyballs. This video investigates the dangers of Buckyballs and how they can quickly end up in children’s hands.

Symptoms of Buckyball Ingestions

Consuming magnet balls can lead to flu-like symptoms such as bellyache and vomiting within a couple of days. If the magnets create a hole, there may be blood in the person’s vomit. The most severe injuries occur in the digestive tract such as the stomach, colon, and small bowel.

Many children who swallow the magnet balls don’t exhibit symptoms immediately. Doctors don’t typically discover the magnets until an X-ray has been done and by that time, severe damage has already been done.

A Caution to Parents

As of January 2017, many stores have continued the sale of the tiny neodymium magnet spheres Buckyballs. Now that the toy is back on market shelves, parents should be cautious about the hazards of these magnets and the dangers of their children ingesting them.

Sacramento Products Liability Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a products liability lawyer in Sacramento. The strong magnetic balls can cause serious injuries and even death if swallowed. If your child has sustained severe injuries after swallowing Buckyballs magnets or a similar magnetic product, please call me for free friendly legal advice. I can be reached at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. You can also contact me on our online form.

I am a member of both the National Association of Distinguished Counsel and the Million Dollar Forum.

You can learn more about my law firm by visiting the following pages to see previous cases we have handled and our client reviews:

Photo by: Meredin on Pixabay

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