March 31, 2006
In a masterpiece of obfuscation, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued what appears to be a recall notice for about 3.8 million "Magnetix" magnetic building sets after the death of a 20-month-old boy who swallowed magnets included with the set and incidents involving at least 34 other children.
The recall notice issued by the CPSC says that parents can return the dangerous toys and exchange them for something safer. It also includes the odd sentence: "The replacement program does not include sets at retail."
What that means is that the toys are still being sold at Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us, Fred Meyer, Design Science Toys Ltd., A.C. Moore, and other toy and arts and crafts stores nationwide.
The problem with the popular construction sets is that they contain tiny magnets which, if swallowed by infants or toddlers, can bind together in the intestinal tract, causing fatal blockages and other complications.
That's what happened to 21-month-old Kenneth W. Sweet Jr., of Redmond, Wash. His older brother received a Magnetix set as a birthday present and, although it was kept away from Kenny, he got his hands on it one day. He became ill with flu-like symptoms, was hospitalized and died within hours.
An autopsy revealed that he had swallowed eight magnets which had bonded together in two groups, causing a fatal intestinal blockage.
In addition to Kenny, three children aged from 3 to 8 suffered intestinal perforations that required surgery and hospitalization in intensive care. A 5-year-old child aspirated two magnets that were surgically removed from his lung.
Federal safety officials say they are "aware of" at least 34 incidents involving the magnets.
Officials of Rose Art Industries, Inc., the importer and distributor, say the packaging clearly indicates the toys are not intended for children under 6. The company said it is making "enhancements" to improve safety, The Washington Post reported.
The CPSC said it was "monitoring" the situation.
The "recall" affects all Magnetix magnetic building sets including the X-treme Combo, Micro, and Extreme sets. The sets contain 20 to 200 plastic building pieces and 20 to 100 1/2-inch diameter steel balls. The building pieces are red, yellow, blue and green, and are shaped in 1 1/2-inch squares, 1-inch triangles and cylinder rods. Some plastic building pieces have "Magnetix" imprinted on them.
The sets were sold at Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us, Fred Meyer, Design Science Toys Ltd., A.C. Moore, and other toy and arts and crafts stores nationwide. The Magnetix magnetic building sets were sold from September 2003 through March 2006 for between $20 and $60, depending on the size of the set.
Consumers should stop using the magnetic sets and return the sets to Rose Art for a free replacement product suitable for young children under the age of 6. Consumers should be sure to keep all small magnet parts out of the hands of children who mouth objects, especially children under the age of three.
Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Rose Art at (800) 779-7122 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit Rose Art's Web site at www.roseart.com.
The recall is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In its advisory, the CPSC included the sentence: "The replacement program does not include sets at retail." No clarification was provided.