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CPSC Takes Action Against Two Companies

The New York Times has recently run several reports about dangerous products and the efforts of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to regulate such products.

The first company, Fitbit, makes activity monitoring wristbands. In February 2014, Fitbit recalled nearly a million Force wristbands in February after consumers complained of serious rashes, which the manufacturer claimed was the possible result of nickel in the stainless steel bracelet. Nickel allergy is one of the most common allergies in the United States. Although it withdrew the Force wristband quickly, Fitbit is still facing legal action from consumers charging they were injured as a result of using the product.

Now, Fitbit is experiencing similar problems with another wristband, the Flex. The CPSC is conducting an investigation into the allegations and can either require a recall of the product or help Fitbit warn consumers about the possible dangers of nickel exposure. It can also require the company to issue more detailed instructions about safe use of the product.

Another recent action by the CPSC involves Buckyballs, magnetic toys banned by the federal government after children were injured because they swallowed the powerful magnets.  According to the Times story, Zen Magnets, a Boulder, Colorado, company is fighting the CPSC to keep its product in the marketplace.  The owner of the company has said he will fight to the end.

Some children have sustained serious injuries because they swallowed the magnets, and one has died.  Between 2009 and 2013, 2,900 children and teens required emergency treatment because they ingested the small toys. The CPSC requires manufacturers of these toys to either make them large enough so that a child cannot swallow them, or produce them at a much lower level of magnetism, about one-fiftieth of the power of Buckyballs.

The magnets sold by Zen Magnets are so powerful that they can cut off blood flow when they cling together on opposite sides of the intestines.  One child had to have most of his intestines removed.

According to the Times, the recall of these powerful magnetic toys represents one of the most sweeping actions taken by the CPSC since Congress strengthened its powers in 2008.

The owner of Zen Magnets says that the fight is "about more than safety."  He argues that the watchdog agency must balance its safety concerns against the rights of small businesses and entrepreneurs.