Every week, around 20 Australian children present to an emergency department following exposure to button batteries, including ingestions and insertions. Keep products with button batteries out of sight and out of reach of small children.
Button batteries are found in many common household products, such as remote control car keys, TV remote controls, calculators, kitchen and bathroom scales and greeting cards.
Risks and injuries
Button batteries are a little known but severe injury risk for children. Incidents are most common among very young children and toddlers, with the majority of cases involving children younger than six years.
If swallowed, coin-sized lithium button batteries can lodge in a child’s system. An electrical current is immediately triggered by saliva, which causes a chemical reaction that can cause severe burns to the child’s oesophagus and internal organs such as the lungs, heart, arteries and spine. This can take only a few hours, resulting in serious injury or death. These injuries can occur even if the battery that is swallowed has gone flat.
Once burning begins, damage can continue even after the battery is removed and repairing the damage can be painful and may require multiple surgeries.
The following symptoms may occur after swallowing a button battery:
- gagging or choking
- chest pain
- coughing or noisy breathing
- unexplained vomiting or food refusal
- black or red bowel motions or vomits
- nose bleeds
- unexplained fever
These symptoms are similar to many other conditions and may not appear for some time, so it may not be suspected that the child has swallowed a battery.
Look for products that do not run on button batteries
If you do buy button battery operated products, look for ones where the battery compartment requires a tool or dual simultaneous movements to open. This will make it difficult for a young child to access the battery.
- Keep products with button batteries out of sight and out of reach of small children.
- Examine devices and make sure a child cannot gain access to the batteries inside.
- If you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery do not let the child eat or drink and do not induce vomiting.
- Immediately call the Poisons Information Hotline on 13 11 26 for additional treatment information. You will be directed to an appropriate emergency service that can manage the injury.
- Tell others about the risk associated with button batteries and how to keep their children safe.
Even when old or spent, button batteries can still pose a threat, so safely dispose of them immediately.
- As soon as you have finished using a button battery, put sticky tape around both sides of the battery. This will make them less attractive to children and avoid the low risk of them catching fire.
- Dispose of them immediately in an outside bin, out of reach of children, or recycle safely.
- Recycle Right website has a factsheet on battery disposal [PDF].
Guides and more information
Product Safety Australia's Button batteries page has more information including new safety regulations to improve the safety of button batteries.
Product Safety Australia have produced publications to help consumers and businesses understand the safety standards.
The fact sheet and guide contain a summary of the new compliance requirements. Suppliers should read the mandatory standards, available from the Federal Register of Legislation, for the full compliance requirements. The standards include an 18 month transition period and will be mandatory from 22 June 2022.
- Button/coin batteries and consumer goods containing button/coin batteries fact sheet
- A Guide for Business on the Application of Mandatory Standards
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