Panel seeks to toughen rules on toys' magnets

ASTM International, an organization that develops voluntary standards for a wide range of products, began studying magnets in toys following the death of Kenny Sweet, a 20-month-old suburban Seattle boy who died in November 2005 after swallowing Magnetix magnets.

Not until September 2006 did the ASTM subcommittee on toys approve a draft standard that required labeling, as well as use-and-abuse testing, to avoid magnets falling out of toys. The standard was approved in February of this year and is scheduled to take effect in January.

But there are some subcommittee members who would like to see even stronger standards.

Arthur Kazianis, a Hasbro Inc. executive and head of the ASTM's toy subcommittee, said the panel has been working on a stricter standard for magnets because the committee became aware of other incidents that the standard approved earlier this year failed to cover. One example: children swallowed toy parts containing embedded magnets.

"We want something out there to prevent additional injuries from happening," Kazianis said.

The proposed changes would eliminate all magnets in toys that fit in a small-parts test gauge and would require more stringent use-and-abuse testing. The panel also is considering boosting the upper age range for warnings from 8 to 14.

The committee had hoped to approve the even stricter standard by the end of 2007, Kazianis said, but that has been delayed. "We cannot do it by then. I am not saying we are taking a back step on this issue, but I cannot give a date," he said. "I am hoping to do it as soon as possible."