Circuit court strikes down CPSC rule on adult magnet sets

A Tenth Circuit panel has sent the Consumer Product Safety Commission back to the drawing board in its attempt to ban tiny magnet sets intended for adult use as a desk toy or creative outlet accessory. It ruled that the commission had not conducted an adequate cost-benefit analysis of the ban in line with the requirements of its enabling statute. We covered the CPSC’s legal vendetta against the defiant maker of BuckyBalls; the last surviving company to sell the product is Zen Magnets, which now is allowed to resume operations while the Commission goes back to the drawing board, assuming it decides to do so. [Nancy Nord] And: Nov. 29 statement from Zen Magnets; Abby Schachter, Weekly Standard; Brian Doherty, Reason.


  • I was intrigued by this phrase from the court decision:

    >”Inasmuch as the Commission estimated the expected useful life of magnet sets to be
    about one year”

    Previously, I had feared that kids could find and injure themselves with a forgotten “adult” set in the attic or in a trash bin. But if this rapid obsolescence is true, then the principal safety objection to adult-marketed sets vanishes.

    Is this rapid depreciation true? I was not able to find confirmation through a preliminary Google search. I suppose it is not a point that sellers would want to call attention to, *except* in the narrow context of safety regulation. The weaker magnets of my childhood preserved magnetism much longer, but were larger, shaped to emphasize polarity, and came with “keepers.”

    • Is this rapid depreciation true? … The weaker magnets of my childhood preserved magnetism much longer, but were larger, shaped to emphasize polarity, and came with “keepers.”

      I think that the “BuckyBall” magnets (not to be confused with Fullerene graphite called buckyballs and buckytubes) are either Alnico (Aluminum, Nickel, Cobalt alloyed with Iron) or rare earth alloy magnets. I suspect Alnico because rare earth alloys can be expensive.

      Either way, I don’t think the magnets deteriorate rapidly. Both types of magnets are used in applications where they are expected to last very long lifetimes. Alnico magnets in loudspeakers is an example, and many existing loudspeakers have been around since shortly after the invention of the Alnico alloy in 1931 with no deterioration.

      Alnico is very brittle, as any kid who has ever taken apart a loudspeaker can tell you. Maybe Alnico’s brittleness, and speculation about BuckyBall magnets chipping or fracturing in use was the basis for the CSPC projecting such a short useful lifetime.

      But I suspect that the CPSC meant depreciation in the financial sense, that a set of “BuckyBall” magnets would lose financial value rapidly.