The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s controversial campaign to ban magnet spheres keeps losing ground as Public Policy Polling recently released results showing an overwhelming majority of Americans disagree with the ban. This is another point against the CPSC in its pursuit of banning sets of high powered magnet spheres. With the demise of Buckyballs, Denver-based Zen Magnets LLC is one of the last companies to withstand the unpopular regulatory barrage since August 2012.
The PPP polled registered voters, informing them of the CPSC’s call to cease distribution and sale of magnet spheres citing the potential for serious injury if swallowed. The survey explains, “The concern is that they are an ingestion hazard to children because magnets can pinch internally once two or more are swallowed, which may require surgery.” In light of this information, when asked to choose a level of restriction for magnet spheres, only 6% were in favor of a complete ban. The remaining 88% chose an age-based restriction or no restriction at all (6% unsure).
Public turnout in support of magnets has been tremendous in other mediums as well, with the CPSC receiving more discourse on this rulemaking than ever before in the history of the agency. The agency is required to take public comments on Regulations.gov, and over half of all comments (2,589 of 5,212) received by the agency through this venue pertain to the magnet ban. Of those, 91% opposed the decision to ban magnets. Parents, K-12 Teachers, University Professors and physicists unanimously stated the power to decide should remain theirs, while gastroenterologist and usual safety advocacy organizations cheered the CPSC to stop all import, distribution and sale of sets of magnets commonly used for art and education. Furthermore, the CPSC received a Savemagnets.com petition with a congregation of over 4,300 signatures; ten times more than the quiet agency has ever received before. The petition was authored as a defensive measure by Shihan Qu, owner of a targeted company, Zen Magnets.
It’s worthwhile to note the CPSC is fervently pursuing a company with no record of injury associated with it, a first in the agency’s history. One of their lawsuits names the Denver-based business in a request to “Cease importation and distribution of the Subject Products,” essentially shutting them down. Article 24 of their August 2012 complaint states, “Upon information and belief, the Ingested Products are marketed in substantially similar ways as Zen Magnet™ products.” The CPSC alleges that Zen Magnets should be banned for being similar to Buckyballs, which had previously been marketed as a toy. However Zen Magnets, which has never been marketed as a toy, sells magnet sphere kits exclusively online, which means they are only accessible by technologically savvy users who are aware of the product’s proper use. Furthermore, their product carries labeling and warnings on both the packaging and web store.
With Zen Magnets having no history of injury and following accepted safety standards, why is the CPSC pursuing them so ambitiously? “We do not want to be an agency that simply waits for more injuries to occur before we act,” says CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson. The junior commissioners at the agency intends to curtail future injuries by removing magnetic spheres from consumer’s reach, but the public response to that has been almost unanimous against, citing the public’s freedom to choose, to police their own environment, to take responsibility for their actions. As author Robert Heinlein would put it, “It’s like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can’t eat steak,” or in this case, use magnets.
The analysis in this report is based on telephone interviews conducted July 10-11, 2013 among a national sample of 755 registered voters, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S. states. The survey was conducted by Public Polling Policy (PPP), a North Carolina-based firm. PPP is described as one of the “most accurate” polling companies and as a “Democratic-leaning” polling company. The margin of error is +/- 3.5%, and survey results can be found at: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/NationalSurveyResults.pdf