Danger toy pulled from Dubai shelves

A magnetic toy is being being pulled from shelves across the emirate over child safety fears after several have needed surgery in the US and at least one died.

The Dubai Municipality has pulled the magnetic toy from shelves across the emirate over child safety fears.
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DUBAI // A magnetic toy is being being pulled from shelves across the emirate over child safety fears.

Last month, the US Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a stop-sale order on "Buckyballs" - packets of small magnetic ball bearings - because of injuries to children who swallowed them. Several have needed surgery and at least one died.

It made the order after the number of injuries continued to rise despite a warning in November.

Now Dubai Municipality has followed its lead and banned the balls, which sold for Dh125 at at least one major retail store in Dubai.

"These small powerful magnets can be easily swallowed by children and it can result in a blockage of the intestinal tract which may lead to major surgery or in one case in America a child died," said Redha Salman, director of the department.

The department is concentrating its efforts now as many parents will be buying toys for Eid.

"In the US companies can bypass certain regulation by placing an age restriction on a product and marketing it towards adults.

"We don't differentiate between adult and child toys because you can't be sure who might get a hold of it."

The CPSC report found that "the magnets, which are made of the rare-earth mineral neodymium, stick together with such force that if they're ingested, they can bore holes in the stomach or intestines, sometimes causing blood poisoning and requiring emergency surgery."

In one case, a 22-month-old toddler who swallowed eight magnets needed almost all of his small intestine removed, leaving him dependent on intravenous nutrition.

Maxfield & Oberton, which makes Buckyballs, responded by saying that their product is not meant for children and the packaging has five warnings printed on it.

It says on the Buckyballs website that "the Commission used innuendos and guesstimations when it came to our balls."

Though there have been no reported cases of children swallowing magnets in Dubai, the municipality has issued a precautionary ban on Buckyballs and all toys that contain small magnets.

"At our labs we conduct a standardised cylinder test, which mimics a child's oesophagus, if the magnet passes through the cylinder then its considered too small and not safe to be sold," said Mr Salman.

The municipality also seized Thinking Putty - a putty toy that is infused with millions of magnetic iron filings - as well as small magnetic stickers, alphabet fridge magnets and counters and a magnetic fishing toy.

"We've asked the Ministry of Environment to inform the concerned authorities in other emirates about these products."