Small magnetic novelty items that can cause grave health risks if swallowed are now banned in Victoria, Minister for Consumer Affairs Michael O'Brien announced today.
"Effective immediately, they must not be sold or made available for sale in any store across Victoria. Consumer Affairs Victoria inspectors will be out checking and will seize these items if they have not been removed from sale by businesses," Mr O'Brien said.
The Victorian Minister for Consumer Affairs today approved a 60-day interim ban order on small, separable or loose permanent magnetic objects such as BuckyBalls, Buckycubes, Nanodots, Neocubes, Neodymium sphere magnets and Xcube. Similar bans have been enacted in Western Australia and New South Wales.
Mr O'Brien said, while the Commonwealth Government was proposing a nationwide ban, this did not result in the immediate removal of the products.
"We take the safety of children very seriously, and have taken swift action to remove the potentially dangerous products immediately to prevent them from causing further harm," Mr O'Brien said.
"While the Commonwealth is considering its position, the Victorian Coalition Government is taking action now to reduce the risk of serious harm."
Mr O'Brien said the magnets, which are usually sold in quantities within a single package, can cause serious injury if swallowed or inhaled.
There are risks to toddlers and small children placing the objects in their mouths, as well as a risk from accidental swallowing by teenagers or adults using the magnets as facial jewellery.
"The magnets can lock together through intestinal walls and cause perforations and blockages. Urgent surgery may then be required to remove the magnets, to avoid serious medical complications or death," Mr O'Brien said.
"Children can choke or suffocate if the magnets lodge in their throat or block their windpipe.
"Although these products may be branded with warnings, the serious health risks they pose are not obvious, and unfortunately injuries are becoming more common," Mr O'Brien said.
The number of injuries from small, powerful magnets is increasing. The Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit has reported that of 203 'ingestion of magnets' incidents in the 15 years to 2010; 43 per cent involved 'magnetic balls/spheres'. There has been a substantial increase in incidents since 2005.
This is the first Victorian interim ban introduced under the Australian Consumer Law's product safety powers.
The ban applies to small, separable or loose permanent magnetic objects:
- That are supplied as aggregated masses or in multiples of two or more;
- That are intended or marketed by the manufacturer primarily as a manipulative or construction desk toy or as jewellery;
- That have a magnetic flux index of greater than 50 kG2mm2; and
- Where the product supplied contains more than one magnet that fits within the small parts cylinder specified in the International Standards Organization Toy Standard (ISO 8124-1:2009, Safety of toys).