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Canada Proposes Restrictions on Magnetic Toys

The Canadian government is proposing to amend the regulations under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act to include a restriction on both the size and the attractive strength of magnetic toys and magnetic components of toys, with consideration for functional magnets in electronic components as well as magnets contained in advanced experimental kits for older children. The proposed amendments also set out a series of integrity tests to verify that dangerous magnetic components do not separate from a toy or its components when used. Interested parties may submit input on this proposal by 18 January 2018.

More specifically, the proposed amendments would set a requirement that any magnetic toy or magnetic component that can be entirely enclosed in the small parts cylinder must have a magnetic flux index of less than 0.5 T mm. The method to assess the magnetic flux index would be set out in a new schedule of the regulations. Compliance with this criteria would also be required after the magnetic toy or magnetic component is subjected to a standard series of integrity tests. A number of tests would have to be performed to ensure that these requirements are met and those tests would generally be aligned with current U.S. and EU test provisions.

The proposed amendments would establish two exceptions that align with those in the United States and the European Union. The first is an exception for a magnetic component that is required for the function of a motor, relay, speaker, or other electric or electronic component, as long as the magnetic property is not part of the intended learning or play pattern for the toy. The second is an exception for magnetic components in toys that are advanced magnetic electrical experimental kits intended for children eight years of age or older, where the kit has a warning on its packaging and instructions regarding the danger of swallowing magnets.

The proposed restrictions are aimed at protecting children from small powerful magnets made of rare earth elements, which began to proliferate in the Canadian market in 2003. The strength of these magnets makes them capable of attracting each other through up to six layers of intestinal wall, posing severe injury hazards to children. Similarly to the United States, Canada focused its early risk management efforts, starting in 2006, on providing safety information and advisories to inform and educate the public and the toy industry about the serious ingestion hazard that small powerful magnets in toys pose to children. However, in order to further protect children and in light of the mandatory standards already in place in the United States and the EU, Canadian authorities have decided to adopt their own set of restrictions on these products.

A cost-benefit analysis performed by the Canadian government concluded that the proposed amendments would have low economic costs, given that the majority of toy manufacturing occurs outside Canada and the majority of magnetic toys available in Canada are likely to meet magnet-related toy safety requirements in place in the United States and the EU. The total 10-year costs to industry of the proposed amendments are estimated to be approximately CA$94,610 (present value, 2016 price level) for product redesign and annual testing.

In terms of benefits, the proposed amendments are expected to result in fewer injuries to children and should decrease the need for medical attention or hospitalisation by reducing the availability of dangerous magnetic toys. The total 10-year benefits are estimated to be approximately CA$2.4 million (present value, 2016 price level) based on a reduction in injuries and treatment costs. A sensitivity analysis also demonstrated that if the present value of costs is five times higher than estimated and the present value of benefits is 80 percent lower than estimated (which could reflect a situation where the majority of magnetic toys on the market already meet the requirements outlined in Health Canada’s policy), a small net benefit of CA$15,000 over 10 years is still estimated.

The new restrictions would enter into force six months after the issuance of a final regulation in the Canada Gazette.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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