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Yank It Off the Shelf. Faster.

Yank It Off the Shelf.  Faster.

These educational toys are bright and colorful.

September 8, 2007 —

In March 2006, after a reported 34 incidents involving magnetic pieces in Magnetix-brand building sets, the product was recalled in the United States. A number of children had swallowed magnets that had come loose from their plastic casings, including four children between the ages of three and eight who required surgery and hospitalization, and the death of a 20-month-old boy in December 2005.

The four-month time lapse between the death and the recall is even more disturbing when it is realized that the parents of a four-year-old boy had contacted the company in August 2005 after their son swallowed some magnetic pieces and required emergency intestinal surgery. According to the child’s mother, "After our son was terribly injured, we alerted the company by certified letter…Then, just a few weeks later, a family…lost their son after he swallowed these magnets as well. We were astounded that the company later claimed on national television that they had no prior knowledge of these incidents when, in fact, they had our letter."

In announcing the recall, RoseArt released a statement that it “…does not involve products on retail shelves. There is no required action for retailers from the CPSC [U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission] as part of this program.” In addition, the company redesigned the magnetic building set, but did not provide a way for consumers to distinguish the outdated Magnetix sets from new ones with improved safety features. The recall allowed consumers to send old sets to the company, but they receive product replacement and financial reimbursement.

Magnetix’s parent company RoseArt seemingly compounded the situation when it claimed its products are safe when properly used and called on parents to supervise their children when they play. The company quoted a Harvard Professor as stating: "Manufacturers provide warning labels on the boxes to help parents make informed choices when buying toys with and for children, but it is up to adults to use these warnings. Toys offer many fun and educational opportunities when used properly but they are never a substitute for adult supervision.”
The "passing the buck" outraged the families of injured children and a number of these families sued RoseArt and its parent company MegaBloks. According to one lawyer involved in the suit," We're concerned that RoseArt has not fully recognized the seriousness of this danger to children. Blaming the families for these tragedies is reprehensible. The fact is, the magnets in these toys too easily come loose and fall out, and will get into the hands of young children under the best parental supervision."

In addition, by looking at RoseArt’s product line, one could assume that the company does, in fact, try to supply toys that substitute for adult supervision. Otherwise, how could one explain a toy company that makes more than 1,000 products? And, the building sets were not the first time RoseArt had run afoul with the CPSC. In the summer of 2005, it was fined $300,000 by the CPSC for failing to report hazards with the Glamour Gear Soap Making Kits, which due to a defect, burned some children who played with it. In addition, in May 2002, almost 200,000 cotton candy machines were recalled after hundreds of reports of overheating, even several fires.

It is important to note that this incident involves Magnetix and RoseArt, and magnetic toys are not inherently dangerous. According to the web site, Geomag - a building system composed of magnetic rods and spheres – is similar to Magnetix in concept, but different in composition and thus does not pose the same threat. For information, go to the web site [].

Will you avoid RoseArt or Mega Bloks products? Both companies have been criticized for the seemingly casual response to the injuries – and eventual death – caused by their product. In addition to individual law suits, these companies may only be forced to change from consumer pressure. What sort of message does the situation send parents regarding the toy industry’s attitude toward child safety? Most toy manufacturers place warning labels on their products, but should toy companies make sure that their toys are safe and cannot come apart into smaller pieces which may go unnoticed by even the most attentive parent? How much responsibility should toy makers burden? How much for parents?

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