Are magnetic toys safe for your child? One magnetic building set, the Battat Magnabild, has been making new headlines due to a $400,000 civil penalty. The Magnabild Magnetic Building Set product line was recalled in 2008 due to health risks posed by magnets falling out of the playset. Safety experts concluded that loose magnets could be swallowed or inhaled by young children and cause serious, potentially fatal injuries like a perforated intestine. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission alleges that Battat, Inc., knew about the dangers and failed to report them.
The Plattsburgh, NY based Battat Incorporated marketed its Magnabild playset to children ages 3 and up. As any mom, dad or grandparent knows, this age group is prone to swallowing small parts. That’s why toys with potential choking hazards are very carefully labeled and rated for older kids. Between November 2006 and July 2007, the CSPC questioned whether magnetic children’s toys were safe at all, whether or not the product presented an outright choking hazard.
A Magnet Safety Alert was issued to warn parents and guardians: Even if your toddler didn’t choke on a small magnet, the child could still be in serious danger if he or she ingested multiple magnets and the magnets connected to each other inside the child’s stomach or intestine. Five separate recalls were issued by the CSPC for millions of magnetic toys, including the Rose Art Magnetix Building Set. Safety defects in the Rose Art Magnetix Building Set resulted in one death, four serious injuries and 34 other medical incidence involving small magnets.
Battat Inc. Finds a Hazardous Defect and Fails To Notify the CSPC
There have been no reports of injuries caused by Battat Magnabild, but the CSPC found evidence that Battat knew about the loose magnet danger in October 2005. Federal law requires companies to report to the CSPC within 24 hours after they discover their product contains a dangerous defect or medical hazard. Although CSPC staff contacted Battat in July, 2007, the Magnabild manufacturers didn’t respond to the safety agency until October, 2007. By this time, Battat had received 16 reports of loose magnets and two incidents where children ingested non-magnetized parts also included in the Magnabild playset.
Working with the CSPC, Battat announced a voluntary recall of 125,000 Magnabild Magnetic Building Sets in January, 2008. Three months later, in March, 2008, the recall was expanded to include another 7,000 toys.
Battat and the CSPC reached a settlement last month and the toy manufacturer agreed to pay a $400,000 penalty. However, Battat denies the CSPC’s allegations that they covered up their product’s hazards or otherwise violated the Consumer Product Safety Act.
Know Your Kids’ Toys
Although Battat’s Magnabild products are no longer sold in retail stores, check your toddler’s toy chest for this playset, just in case. A dangerous product can still end up in your home after it’s been recalled and discontinued. You might purchase it from a secondary market like eBay, without realizing that you’re buying a recalled item, or receive the product as a gift or a hand-me-down from family friends. If the product is a few years old, the recall announcements might be long forgotten.
The Battat Magnabild case also illustrates why it’s important to know what your kids are playing with. Make sure babies and toddlers have proper supervision at all times. If you find a recall alert from a product that’s similar to something your child owns, examine the item closely to make sure that it doesn’t have the same defects or potential dangers. Like Battat, many companies prefer to look the other way when their product is defective. Don’t wait for CSPC investigators to hold these companies accountable – your child might get hurt in the meantime.
Product recall information is freely available online. You can also download mobile apps to get the latest alerts on your iPhone, Blackberry or Android smart phone. Scambook is another great resource. Browse our complaint database whenever you’re researching a product or service and keep an eye right here on our blog. We’re also on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Information is the best way to protect your children from potential safety hazards, so make sure you stay in the loop!