Commissioner's blog: Tiny batteries – big danger

This announcement is for: 

They might look harmless, but in the wrong hands (and mouths) button batteries can become child killers.

Every week in Australia, 20 children present to an emergency department following exposure to button batteries, with one child a month suffering serious injuries.

If swallowed, coin-sized lithium button batteries can lodge in a child’s system and the resulting chemical reaction can 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.

A grieving Queensland couple recently 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 – 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.

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.

If you do need to buy a button-battery operated product, 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, out of children’s reach. 

Remember that it’s an emergency if you think your child has swallowed one – do not let them eat or drink, do not induce vomiting and call the Poisons Information Centre immediately on 13 11 26.

If your child is having any difficulty breathing, call 000. Once at the hospital, ask for an X-ray.

For further information about the risks, symptoms and how to keep your family safe, visit:

lanie_chopping3.jpg, by fpennington

Lanie Chopping

Commissioner for Consumer Protection


Consumer Protection
Media release
12 Nov 2020

Last modified: