DENVER: In a formal petition submitted to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in mid-August 2017, Zen Magnets, LLC (Zen) proposed new rulemaking for a comprehensive safety standard for all brands of high-powered small rare earth magnet spheres (SREMs) - such as Zen Magnets and Buckyballs - with the goal of extending its industry-leading track record of safe magnet use.
Zen presented its petition almost one year after the CPSC's 2014 rulemaking was vacated by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in November 2016. The Tenth Circuit found that Rule was not properly supported by injury data used in the rulemaking. The CPSC itself has acknowledged that during the last five years magnet-related injuries have declined precipitously: "Over the last five years, injuries associated with the subject magnets have decreased from fifty-two, to thirteen, to four, to one, to one, respectively." Commissioner Mohorovic, Commission Meeting: Decisional Matter: Magnet Set Safety Standard - Removal from the Code of Federal Regulations (March 1, 2017).
After the Tenth Circuit ruling, many copycat companies began selling SREMs without the benefit of any regulatory oversight. For example, Chinese manufacturers are now selling counterfeit Buckyballs and lower-quality Zen Magnet knockoffs in inferior packaging, without warnings or instructions.
Many of these lower-quality products lack any warnings of the risks of ingesting magnets and fail to advise about any procedures in the event of ingestion. Further, there are no use instructions at all on these knockoff magnets. Zen Magnets has prominently featured warnings, and instructions on safe use and storage for the SREMs in its whole product range since late 2012. Though magnets can be dangerous if misused, an administrative law judge has found that Zen Magnets do not present a substantial product hazard when sold with appropriate warnings and include proper age recommendations. Zen wants to continue selling magnets safely and it has asked the CPSC to adopt a reasonable regulatory scheme to protect consumers of SREMs.
It remains to be seen whether and how much the influx of unregulated SREMs will reverse the trend towards zero magnet-related injuries in the U.S., which has continued in the 10 months since SREMs have become available via large online retail channels such as Amazon and eBay. Zen's proposed Rule addresses these very issues.
Zen filed its petition in an effort to curb the risks of unregulated, counterfeit SREMs with regulations and practices for their import and sale, including prescribed age requirements, language for warnings, and specific packaging requirements for retail purchases.
Zen is hoping to collaborate with the CPSC to create a regulatory scheme to ensure the safe manufacture, distribution and use of Zen Magnets and other SREMs in education, recreation, art and science. This will allow the public to use the magnets out of a sense of purpose and respect, not to avoid them out of fear.
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