My Reply to a Magnet Ban Dr [Long]
This is a discussion that happened on an ASTM subcommitte, where a doctor David Egilman said this about magnet spheres (like buckyballs, zen magnets, etc) :
There is no reason to sell these products. Teh standard gives the misimpression that the products can be sold safely. No warning is adequate. For example: This does not account for non-English speakers, mentally impaired children or adults (think dementia). The suggested warnings have not been tested for efficacy. Finally the participation of sellers and manufacturers (more than 1) is a violation of anti-trust laws. This “standard” blocks competition over safety as do most similar ASTM standards.
Dear David Egilman,
I realize you’re a relatively recent addition to this group, so I’ll go over some of the previously discussed matters which you brought up, even though they are out of the scope of this workgroup. You’ve brought up 4 separate points, which I’ll address separately.
“There is no reason to sell these products.”
Usually the magnet-ban advocates don’t say the quiet part out loud, so I applaud your frankness in stating your bias on the matter. I imagine your puerility with the usage of the product, stirred with your observations of how dangerous the magnets can be if ingested, lead you to fiercely claim that there is “no reason” for this product to exist.
I’ve also studied the injury profiles and incidents, and I place great weight on how hazardous strong magnets can be if misused; yet I’ve also heard from thousands who have personally given their accounts about how magnets have improved their lives, and from dozens of teachers who have found great benefits in the unique utility of bipolar magnets with infinite sides. I’m aware of more published academic articles in mathematics, physics and chemistry that are about (or feature) high powered magnet spheres, than there are medical journal articles about the dangers of their ingestion (of which there are many). Here are a few to expand your understanding of the usefulness of the products:
And even in the hypothetical that there wasn’t a huge audience and community who appreciate high powered magnet spheres — for example, even if there weren’t billions of views on the first page of “magnet balls” on a youtube search, to show an indicator of interest of magnet spheres is statistically likely to supersede whatever hobby you care about (like, unless it’s like taylor swift or a mainstream high-skull-impact sport that you love) — it doesn’t change that:
Whether or not the product has a “reason” isn’t at all up to you. Utility, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
“Teh standard gives the misimpression that the products can be sold safely. No warning is adequate. The suggested warnings have not been tested for efficacy.”
In my personal experience working with the wide range of first-time magnet sphere users to magnet super hobbyists, I’ve seen that people absolutely can use magnets safely. It’s not the first time there’s been a product that is dangerous if ingested.
One interesting thing that I’ve learned in the past 10 years is that an industry has been built upon warnings: Their language, size, placement, and even font, have consistent policies that are proportional to the hazards involved. Certainly through significant testing.
Yet, what we have here in ASTM-F3458-21 errs far on the side of safety. The warnings are stronger — in terms of placement, quantity, and language — than fireworks and cigarettes combined.
You might say, “well the hazards are hidden” and “people tend not to read warnings.” But most hazards are hidden until they are learned, which is the entire point of warnings. And while true that in the age of Apple terms and agreements, not everyone reads warnings, the purpose of the child resistant packaging is exactly to force consumers through user interaction design to read the warnings.
What’s truly unsupported by data, is the conclusion that no warning can possibly exist that — when supported by proper packaging design and sales methods — would adequately address the hazard.
I would argue that the removal of nuance from the discussion of magnet safety, and the pretense that magnets must either result in a torrent of injuries or be banned entirely, is exactly what led us down the path of so many horrific injuries in the first place. And to continue doing so as a future injury mitigation strategy would be similarly unwise and unsafe.
“Finally the participation of sellers and manufacturers (more than 1) is a violation of anti-trust laws.”
My steelmanning interpretation of your concern is that companies with the profit motive should not have significant control over a group that is seeking to improve safety. A valiant generality if that’s what you’re trying to say. But here are my two thoughts about that, in this specific context:
A. It’s an entirely false narrative that manufacturers have a majority say here. It’s a narrative that was even pushed by the Washington Post (at the time, 2 companies actually sold the product). Perhaps a mistruth oft repeated because it’s necessary to garner sufficient support for a ban. The fact is, right now, only one company (Nanodots) actually produces the high powered magnets in question, of the 30 (40?, 50?) members of this workgroup. Almost all of those who support safe use of magnets here (instead of non-consensual forced non-use), including myself, have no profit motive. And indeed, even if the current version of F3458-21 becomes law, I will not be one to sell the high powered magnet sets in the future.
B. ASTM already prevents membership from being dominated by product producers. So is it your suggestion that those to be governed should have no say in the consideration of how they are governed? Frankly, this makes no sense to me, but maybe I put too much conviction in the principles of democracy.
“This “standard” blocks competition over safety as do most similar ASTM standards.”
I’m not sure I understand which competition is being blocked here. It seems that removing the product category from consumer access without their consent would be the action that blocks competition. Please elaborate.
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