They might look harmless, but in the wrong hands – and mouths – button batteries can become child killers.
This is the warning from Western Australia’s office of Consumer Protection, which says that every week in Australia 20 children visit a hospital emergency department because of exposure to small ‘button’ batteries.
Severe burns caused to internal organs
Around one child a month suffers serious injuries and there have even been fatalities.
If swallowed, coin-sized lithium button batteries can lodge in a child’s system and the resulting chemical reaction could cause severe burns to their oesophagus and other internal organs.
Likewise, the insertion of button batteries into ears and noses can also lead to significant injuries, the state’s Commissioner for Consumer Protection, Lanie Chopping, said.
Three-year-old Queensland child died
Recently a grieving Queensland couple went public with the story of how their three-year-old daughter died earlier this year after the button battery she swallowed went undetected for nine days.
Her vomiting, nose-bleed and chest-pain were initially attributed to a virus, meaning that when an X-ray was finally performed, it was tragically too late.
“It’s important to realise that button batteries are potentially lurking everywhere in your home,” Chopping stated. “They power remote controls, kitchen scales, birthday cards, children’s toys and hearing aids, to name just a few of the places you might find them.
Look for products using other batteries
“So when buying a toy, household device or novelty item, you should ideally look for products that are rechargeable or contain other types of batteries that are less dangerous,” she said.
“If you do need to buy a product operated by button battery, look for battery compartments that are difficult for children to access, such as those that require a tool or dual simultaneous movements to open.”
Even old or spent button batteries can still pose a threat, so always dispose of them immediately in a safe manner and out of children’s reach, officials advise.