Every year, nearly 3,000 children are treated in emergency rooms across the U.S. for injuries caused by swallowing coin-sized batteries. It is a problem that has increased ninefold in the last decade, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced in June 2014 that it is teaming up with 12 nations worldwide to urge for better safety practices involving button batteries, including pushing manufacturers to provide better packaging, warnings and product designs in order to reduce the risk of child injuries and death.
Why Are Button Batteries Dangerous?
Button batteries, also called coin cell batteries, are used in a variety of products, including children’s toys. If a toy has been designed defectively, a battery compartment might be easily accessible to a child. The consequences can be disastrous.
When the battery comes in contact with saliva, it generates an electrical current. If it gets lodged in a child’s throat, the resulting chemical burns can be deadly, even causing damage after the battery has been removed.
Parents often may not even realize that a coin cell battery has been swallowed. This is because they are too small to choke the child. It may simply seem like the child is coming down with a cold or other illness when, in fact, they are sustaining severe and life-threatening injuries.
Ingestion is not the only danger. An article published in 2012 in the journal Pediatrics noted that button batteries can also cause serious complications when inserted into the nasal cavity or ear.
How Do Children Come in Contact with Button Batteries?
Button batteries can be found in a wide variety of common items in the household, including:
- Children’s toys
- Remote controls
- Keyless entry devices
- Digital scales
- Hearing aids
- Key fobs
- Tea light candles
- Flashing jewelry, clothing or shoes
- Christmas ornaments
- Singing greeting cards.
In cases of button-battery injury involving a toy, the cause can often be a defective design. Children’s toys are required to have battery compartments that are child-resistant and secured with screws. However, curious children will examine and probe toys from every angle. The youngest children often explore with their mouths.
If the battery compartment is faulty, and a tiny battery falls out, it could easily injure a child despite a parent’s best efforts to be safe. In those cases, it may be helpful to discuss your situation with a product liability attorney.
Reduce Risk of Button Battery-Related Injuries
Button batteries are everywhere. That is why you must be vigilant at locating potential safety hazards and making efforts to eliminate them whenever possible.
To avoid the risk of injuries related to button batteries, you can:
- Keep button batteries beyond a child’s reach. Lock all batteries up. You should also keep all other electronics such as remotes and calculators out of children’s reach unless they can be screwed shut.
- Inspect all of your child’s battery-operated toys. If they do not have a screw-secured battery compartment, cover the compartment with duct tape or consider getting rid of the toy altogether.
- If someone in your home uses a hearing aid, be sure to tell them about the risks of coin cell batteries, and be sure they know to keep their extra batteries in a location that is not accessible to children.
- Read all packaging and instructions carefully before using items with button batteries.
- Dispose of used batteries appropriately.
If someone has swallowed a button battery, do not induce vomiting right away. Seek medical attention immediately or call the National Battery Ingestion and Poison Help Hotline at (202) 625-3333.
Want to test your knowledge of button battery safety? Take the CPSC’s quiz here.