Good Riddance to the CPSC

DENVER, COLORADO, June 5, 2014 / — This is written in response to Marietta S. Robinson’s statement, published on May 28th, 2014.

Last week, you released a statement on, titled “Good Riddance to Buckeyballs” announcing victory over Buckyballs, and giving the organization to which you are a commissioner, a few laud pats on the back. You said, “The settlement in this matter mirrors the lawsuit, and reaffirms that the CPSC was only doing it’s duty.” I welcome you to the CPSC, and I believe the directive your agency is tasked with is important. But in this case, frankly, it worries me that you would say “Consumers have won” when the consumers tell you otherwise.

I did like that you acknowledged the state of CPSC public relations regarding the CPSC’s war on magnets when you joined the CPSC in July 2013. As you dramatically say, there were “ubiquitous, vitriolic public attacks on the commission, commissioners, and staff members because of it.” I’m sorry you’ve had to experience such attacks, but it’s true that this issue is attached to the most public backlash the CPSC has ever received. Although it’s only ironic that you would bring up the “press’s and [Buckyball’s] distortions regarding the CPSC’s goal in the lawsuit” and “loss of focus on salient facts,” since your statement itself seems to include much distortion, and loss of focus on salient facts.

Why exactly was there so much public backlash in the first place, for the attempt to ban Buckyballs and Zen Magnets? The same question which will come to the minds of those unfamiliar with the topic is also the same omission which brings lack of balance to your opinion piece. Because the magnets were not children s toys, and your agency made glaring unprecedented assumptions: That people don’t have the right to read product warnings for themselves and require non-consensual regulation for a product that is perfectly safe if not misused; and that a product for adults can be “defective” by being “too appealing” to an audience that it’s not intended for, and thus require an all-ages-all-locations-all-out ban.

Two facts you stated are scientifically flawed. The big one has been rebutted multiple(1) times(2) already: The estimated 1,716 injuries from NEISS data were not from magnet spheres, they were from a conglomerate grouping of magnets that included search terms like: marble, petit, eraser head, and powerful. In order to best serve your agency, and thus your country, you should be aware that when the same search is performed on the period prior to introduction of magnet spheres to market, 94% of the injury rate was present. The other figures you state to support your conclusion are from a 2012 NASPHGAN survey, reporting 480 magnet ingestions in the past 10 years with 204 from October 2011-2012. The issue there is that when NASPHGAN members are surveyed about a specific trend, while simultaneously being notified of one, the results are biased.

I have no doubt that increased availability of any product will generally lead to increased occurrences of accidents involving that product. Gasteroenterologists tell us that magnets are five times more likely to require surgery for removal if ingested. And although they are accepted to be less of a risk that balloons to children, we both know balloons will be a much harder to ban, since they are not new as magnets are.

I hope during your tenure at the CPSC, you build a reputation taking seriously both judgments of which the CPSC is required to be mindful. “To protect … from unreasonable risks.” To consider not just risk, but also utility. And to find solutions which are conscionable to your sense of democracy. Instead of pushing to have educational artistic magnets be harder to obtain than ammunition in America, against a 9/10 disapproval from the American Public, like Adler.

Shihan Qu
Founder, Zen Magnets