July 2, 2013
Button Batteries - Death and Injury Warning to Parents

In Australia, an estimated 4 children per week present to an emergency department with an injury related to a button battery. 

Kidsafe Victoria has issued a warning to parents over the dangers posed by button batteries following the death of a four year old Queensland girl.

Robert Caulfield, President of Kidsafe Victoria, said that button batteries pose a severe and little known risk to children. The batteries are often ‘invisible’ to adults, as many devices come with the batteries already installed.

Mr Caulfield noted that button batteries can be found in many common household items including remote controls, household electronic devices, car key, toys, cameras, bathroom scales, musical cards, computer accessories and wrist watches.  

Mr Caulfield said “If swallowed, these coin sized batteries can get stuck in a child’s throat – the chemical reaction between saliva and the battery causes an electrical current which can burn through the oesophagus in as little as two hours, causing severe and life threatening injuries.

Mr Caulfield noted the difficulty in diagnosing a child who has swallowed a button battery, stating that “Symptoms of ingestion may be similar to other common childhood illnesses, including coughing, drooling and discomfort.”

Kidsafe Victoria has highlighted the importance of safe storage and safe disposal of batteries to reduce the risk to children.

The ‘Battery Controlled Campaign’ was launched in Australia in 2012 by Kidsafe and the ACCC to raise awareness of button battery related injuries- more information can be found at www.thebatterycontrolled.com.au

Kidsafe’s top tips for keeping children safe around batteries:

  • Examine devices and make sure the battery compartment is secure.
  • Keep coin-sized button batteries and devices out of sight and out of reach of small children.
  • 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, including in:

  • Remote control devices e.g. ones 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 on the dangers posed by button batteries can be found at http://www.kidsafe.com.au/hot-topic.html