Magnetic Non-personality

magnetismI haven’t written anything for ages partly because I’ve been busy at work and too whacked in the evening to think about it, but mainly because I seemed to run out of things to write about.

I did start a post on an eventful outward holiday journey to Cyprus which culminated in Master P losing his passport less than an hour after landing, but I decided to spare his blushes.

(It turned up eventually, four days into the week-long holiday, but only after many phone calls locally and to the UK, the rigmarole of reporting it to the police who couldn’t have cared less, downloading the various forms at an internet cafe, trying to figure out how we could get two passport photos of him (they don’t do photo booths in Cyprus) and plotting a round trip to Nicosia and the UK High Commission.)

But I digress. What prompted the post was not my son’s ‘lesson in life’, but an email that crossed my inbox today, one that listed all the various consultations that the government is going through. There were 15 in total, most of them by NICE, the one that caught my eye though was on proposals to implement the European Commission Decision on safety warnings on toys containing magnets.

I downloaded the PDF and according to the executive summary:

“The hazard, which previously had been little appreciated within the toys industry, is the ability of magnets to attract each other, or to metal parts, through human tissue when swallowed or inhaled.”

First, I question the use of the word ‘ability’. The online dictionary defines this as:

  1. power or capacity to do or act physically, mentally, legally, morally, financially, etc.
  2. competence in an activity or occupation because of one’s skill, training, or other qualification: the ability to sing well.
  3. abilities, talents; special skills or aptitudes: Composing music is beyond his abilities.

Which suggests that magnets are making a conscious decision as to whether to attract other magnets or metals (actually just those containing iron if O-level physics serves) and clearly they don’t. Surely it is a property rather than an ability?

Pedantry aside, how is that the toy industry hadn’t appreciated that this is what magnets do? Surely that is the why they incorporate them in toys because of their magnetic properties?

And attracting other magnets and metals through human tissue? Well yes they can if they’re the sort they use in MRI scanners (that’s the point) or the electromagnets they use in scrap yards, but magnets found in kids’ toys?

And inhaling magnets? How’s that done? A bit of magnetic dust perhaps, but a bit of attractive snot hardly seems a great hazard.

Don’t get me wrong: anything that makes the world safer has my full support and I’d rather not have teddy bears with pins in them for kids to swallow, or toy trains painted with leaded paint. Little magnets might fall into that category, but somehow I doubt it.

The consultation asks six questions, but the second is the most telling:

“Do you agree with our assumption that large businesses (manufacturers, importers and retailers) would comply with the warning requirement regardless of Government intervention?”

As in large business playing Herod? Not the best marketing ploy eh?

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

1 comment… Add yours
  • Yorkshire Pudding 22nd April 2008

    Sounds like your Cyprus holiday was loadsa fun thanks to young Peter Parrot. I mean – who would want to spend their holiday lounging on a beach when you can be surfing in internet cafes or visiting consular officials in strange divided cities like Nicosia. Why didn’t you just leave him in Cyprus?


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