Button batteries: A little known risk

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Button batteries found in remote controls and other household electronic devices are a severe and little known risk for young children, a joint campaign by Energizer, Kidsafe, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned.

“The Battery Controlled campaign is being launched to alert parents and carers about the danger that coin-sized batteries pose to children if swallowed,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

The Battery Controlled campaign is calling on parents to keep batteries out of reach of children, get help fast if swallowed, and to spread the word about the danger.

The coin-sized lithium button batteries can lodge in the throats of children, where saliva immediately triggers an electrical current, causing a chemical reaction that can severely burn through the oesophagus in as little as two hours.

“An estimated four children per week in Australia present to an emergency department with a button battery related injury,” Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit’s Director, Dr Ruth Barker said.

Ms Court said in Australia, the awareness of risks associated with button batteries is worryingly low.

“Campaigns like this one are excellent in keeping consumers informed and that is why the ACCC welcomes this initiative. Awareness of the risks and knowing what to do if something does go wrong is the best route to assisting parents,” Ms Court said.

“Getting retailers and business to support the campaign will be key to getting the safety message to parents and carers at the point of sale,” Kidsafe ACT Chief Executive Eric Chalmers said.

“I thank the industry for its growing support for this campaign. Energizer has encouraged the involvement of manufactures, users and retailers and this of course is a key aim of both the ACCC and Kidsafe.

“Businesses can get behind the campaign by displaying the fact card and handing out flyers or providing links to the campaign video.”

The advice from campaign partners is to:

  •  Examine devices and make sure the battery compartment is secure
  • Keep coin-sized button batteries and devices out of sight and out of reach
  • Dispose of old button batteries immediately
  • If swallowing of a button battery is suspected, go to the emergency room immediately
  • Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for additional treatment information
  • Tell others about this threat and share these steps.

Button batteries are found in everyday devices such as:

  • remote control devices that unlock car doors and control MP3 speakers
  • calculators
  • hearing aides
  • bathroom scales
  • reading lights
  • flameless candles
  • talking and singing books and greeting cards.

More information can be found at www.thebatterycontrolled.com.au and on the Product Safety Australia website (www.productsafety.gov.au) and social media channels: @ProductSafetyAU Twitter account and the ACCC Product Safety Facebook page.

The Australian Battery Controlled campaign is modeled on a similar US initiative.  Each year about 3500 button battery cases are reported to US poison control centres.