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Between 5-15 kids every year die from asphyxiation on balloons. The number in 2009 was 11. In the same year, more than 500 kids were treated in the emergency room for ingesting small rare earth magnets; according to the APA, "almost every one" of those cases required endoscopic surgery --- and, while I'm sure that's actually alarmist, it seems safe to assume that balloons incurred less surgical cost than tiny magnets.

Balloons require warning labels, and some balloon applications that previously used latex balloons now use mylar for safety reasons. Balloon casualties are as a result declining. Despite increased safety labeling, reported harm from tiny magnets was steadily increasing.

When the CPSC banned lawn darts, the companies that manufactured that toy also had to lay off staff.

I am not sure where you got those numbers from, but "more than 500 kids treated in the emergency room for ingesting small rare earth magnets" is just not accurate.

I need to do some digging, but the last time I saw the statistics, balloons were responsible for exponentially higher numbers of hospital visits and deaths than magnets. Buckyballs have never resulted in a death, whereas balloons cause numerous deaths every year.

Do you think that balloons should be outlawed as well?

Edit: This is where I am getting my stats from:


> CPSC indicates that approximately 22 children were injured from Buckyball magnets since their release in 2009. Not a single fatality was reported.

1700 emergency room treatments for ingestion of small magnets occurred from 2009 through 2011 according to the CPSC, which gets its information directly from hospitals. Similarly, my numbers for balloon ingestion also came directly from CPSC.

Your data comes from The Huffington Post attempting to recap a CBS News report. Mine comes directly from the CPSC Proposed Rule, which includes methodological information. What's happening, it appears is that CBS is reporting a single sample set number, and not an epidemiological conclusion. Which is another reason I'm happy that CPSC does this work and not, say, HuffPo.

I can't reply to your other comment about reading the actual proposed rule, but I just read through it and this is what I found:

> Reported incidents involving children continued to increase unabated from 8 cases in 2010, 17 cases in 2011, and 25 cases in 2012 (as of July 8, 2012). Twenty two incidents were reported before the PSA; 28 more followed during the eight months after it. A high percentage of the injuries resulted in surgeries or other invasive procedures. Of the 50 reports known to staff, 22 required surgery, and 10 required either invasive procedures such as endoscopies or colonoscopies. In 2011, and into spring 2012, staff continued to identify additional firms offering this product on the Internet with labeling and marketing violations.

It seems that 1,700 number consists mostly of cases where children visited the emergency room, were treated, and sent home, with no surgery required. This means your earlier statement:

>In the same year, more than 500 kids were treated in the emergency room for ingesting small rare earth magnets; according to the APA, "almost every one" of those cases required endoscopic surgery

Is incorrect. The number of incidents that required surgery is very low--in the double digits.

I think this argument has reached a stalemate. I'm obviously not going to change your point of view, and I concede that you are entitled to your own opinion and I can't fault you for it. However, I am glad I am able to make my own case and go on the record that I feel this is a case of selective enforcement that will achieve very little when it comes to children's safety.

The latter statement about cases requiring endoscopic surgery comes from the American Pediatric Association.

I looked up the info on the CPSC website myself:


>Reports of incidents involving these high-powered ball-bearing magnets have increased since 2009. Specifically, CPSC received one incident report in 2009, seven in 2010 and 14 through October 2011. These 22 incidents have involved children ranging in age from 18 months to 15 years old. Of the reported incidents, 17 involved magnet ingestion and 11 required surgical removal of the magnets. When a magnet has to be removed surgically, it often requires the repair of the child's damaged stomach and intestines.

Hardly 1700 emergency room visits.


I think this focus on the numbers is silly. One incident is too many, and even if no children had ever been harmed it would still be important to properly educate the people about the dangers of the product. But I do believe that a wholesale ban is using a shotgun as a flyswatter. It doesn't solve the root problem (uneducated parents or inattentive parenting). Why not focus on making sure the public informed about the dangers of all kinds of products that could potentially harm their children, rather than trying to ban them one by one? It just seems like the wrong way to go about this.

Again: you're reading a different number. The CPSC runs a nationwide statistical survey; you've cited a data point, and I'm citing the epidemiological statistic. Don't read the press release, read the proposed rule, which goes into detail not only about where the 1700 number comes from, but about all the other magnet ingestion incident data that they decided not to include in this figure.

Can you share the URL you're citing?

I am not questioning your integrity (I've been a long time admirer of you on HN, and always found you to be fair and intelligent), however, I don't believe those statistics are correct. Can you point me towards your sources?

You still have not responded to my question about balloons. Do you feel they should receive a similar ban? By your logic it seems like they should. They seem to be, at the very least, somewhat dangerous for children (and certainly more dangerous than they appear).

I would never want to earn a living at the expense of children's lives. We are not bad people. But I honestly do not believe that Buckyballs are as dangerous as they are being made out to be. In addition, I see no reason why a product such as Buckyballs should be uniformly banned when there are millions of responsible adults who enjoy them safely and appropriately. There are no children in my household, and if a child is going to come visit, I make sure there is nothing around that could possibly harm them. I would put alway bottles of liquor, cover power outlets, make sure there are no lighters on the coffee table, and ensure that no buckyballs are within reach. I believe that responsible adults, with appropriate warnings and instructions, should be able to enjoy adult-only products within their home. If I had a toddler running around I would absolutely not have buckyballs in my home.

There is no substitute for proper and attentive parenting. All the bans in the world are not going to save a child who is left to roam around swallowing anything they come across.


No, I don't think we should ban balloons.

I think you're wrong about how dangerous super-strong toy magnets are, but I don't see anyone involved in Buckyballs as trying to "earn a living at the expense of children's lives". We can definitely disagree about this without moralizing.

I think the CPSC is making a sound policy decision here --- and, more importantly to me, is being more carefully empirical than Buckyball's Internet advocates are being.

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