Zen Magnets – RE: Your letter requesting us to shut down.


RE: Your letter requesting us to shut down.

Dear CPSC,

It’s unusual for a response to the CPSC to be open and transparent to the world. But these are unusual circumstances indeed. Let me start by reminding the CPSC and the public:

  1. We have had exactly ZERO ingestion incidents; our magnets have never injured.
  2. We have never referred to our product as a toy, or marketed as such.
  3. We have never put our product on toy shelves, where kids can grab them and shove them in the faces of their parents.

Obviously we are being punished because children have regretfully misused our competitor’s magnets, which are similar in size and strength to ours. On 6/25/12, the CPSC Commissioners who have been in office for 3 years decided they would launch an unusually harsh administrative complaint lawsuit against Buckyballs; an action that hasn’t been pulled out of the CPSC arsenal for 11 years. Of over 2 million sets of Buckyballs sold in the past 3 years; there have been less than two dozen injuries. Buckyballs have always featured an ingestion warning. [Edit 6/8/12: Zen Magnets has now also recieved a CPSC Administrative Complaint. We are the first company to ever recieve this prior to any record of injury.]

Meanwhile, there will be about 100,000 injuries every year in the United States due to backyard trampolines which require Emergency Room treatment, and trampolines are marketed to children. The United States has over 5,000 childhood gun related deaths in a year. 30 American children will die from drowning in Buckets every year. And there have been more skateboard fatalities in 1 year than magnet sphere related injuries in 3.

In comparison, we have sold much less volume than Buckyballs, but magnitude of interest is comparable. If you go on Flickr which is the largest public photo sharing site, you’ll find 16000+ photos tagged with “Buckyballs” and 13000+ photos tagged with “Zen Magnets”. A search on YouTube shows 7150 videos of “Buckyballs”, and 4250 videos for searches of “Zen Magnets”. Despite these comparable gauges of interest, we have had exactly Zero ingestion incidents. By the way, if video views are any indicator of public reach, there are 7 times more views for the first Zen Magnets video, then all 86 CPSC YouTube Videos combined.

Not only is it unusual for the CPSC to target a product with such low risks, it’s unusual for the CPSC to target related companies that have caused no injuries. It’s also unusual for:

  • The CPSC, in citing the dangers of magnets, to cite sources that directly contradict the actions of the CPSC. The author said, “I don’t want the magnetic balls recalled because they are not broken products.”
  • Your badged federal agent, field investigator [Name Redacted] who came to visit our office in May, to say that she “Found our case to be extremely irregular … [she] didn’t agree with what was happening to us, and that she was only doing her job.” By the way, don’t fire her for showing some humanity. She was just doing her job, and seemed like a cool person.
  • Dozens Hundreds of essays to be written against your recall and stop-sale requests. And Hundreds Thousands to petition in protest of the magnet prohibition.

Considering the documented therapeutic, artistic and educational benefits, there must be some context in which magnet spheres can be sold, right?  It would much be less ridiculous if the CPSC was trying to pass regulation that required some sort of age verification similar to video game sites and movie sites. Even if magnets were to be regulated like tobacco (which would still be crazy), it would be more rational than the full on request to “immediately stop manufacturing, importing, distributing, and selling… and recall all products”.

Nobody disagrees with the CPSC when a stroller that pinches fingers is recalled, or toys with mechanical defects are recalled, or a coffee pot that burns people is recalled.  But the current decision makers at the CPSC lack perspective in their current attempts to ban magnets. The CPSC is an important arm of the US Federal government, it “Protects the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death” from thousands of types of products. The keyword here is “unreasonable”, and while I agree that magnets are more dangerous than push pins or staples, the CPSC has shown no attempt to perform a cost-benefit analysis, and is fully failing its utilitarian duties. How much societal damage results from the slippery slope of absolving parents from the responsibility to read warnings? How many tax payer dollars have been wasted trying to minimize risks that are already insignificant? How much will the CPSC’s diminished public respect affect it’s organization’s safety goals?

We’ve complied with your invasive investigations, except for the part where you requested the names and addresses of each and every one of our customers. We checked with a few of our customers, and they were insulted that you even asked. In your letter to us, you say that “The Staff will make every effort to work closely and cooperatively with the firm [to] protect the public while at the same time create a minimum burden and inconvenience for the firm.” How kind of you. It would certainly be a big burden if we couldn’t sell the only product we provide. All things considered, we are requesting that the CPSC “cooperate” by complying with the demands of the public petition at savemagnets.com, and retract the stop-sale requests sent to all magnet sphere brands and retailers. The solution to the dangers of magnets is education, not prohibition. Even though there have been no ingestion incidents or injuries involving Zen Magnets, we’d love to work with the CPSC to ensure the continued safety of our customers if you have more reasonable requests.

You know our numbers. We’re a small company, and we have no investors to back us. If you drew the litigative sword to our necks, we don’t have the resources to defend. The squeakiest gear gets the oil; if you slice us down, the last of our company’s efforts will be to siren this injustice before we fall.

Again, we have served millions of magnets and there have been exactly zero ingestion incidents. I urge those within the CPSC to think twice before applying the death penalty to innocent corporate citizens. See below for the growing list of letters submitted against the CPSC’s magnet prohibition.

-Shihan Qu

Founder of Zen Magnets

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