If there is one battery that parents are wary of around their kids, it’s the button battery.
The batteries are used to power toys, torches and various household devices and when removed from a device, can easily be swallowed.
Two Australian children have died after swallowing button batteries and each week, emergency departments have 20 presentations that need to be extracted.
There has been a call on the Federal Government by consumer group Choice, Kidsafe Queensland and The Parenthood to introduce stricter safety standards for all products that use button batteries.
The case being presented is to make all button batteries sold in child-proof packaging.
Choice spokesperson, Tom Godfrey said, “What we need to see is all products that carry button batteries have a screwed compartment so the battery can’t come out.”
“We’d also like to see the button batteries sold in child-proof packaging.
“In Australia at the moment button batteries aren’t required to be sold in child-proof packaging.
“… You’ll find that these button batteries are very easily accessible by little kids.”
The productions of the tiny lithium batteries in China will triple by 2020.
Dr Ruth Barker, an Emergency paedetrician and director of the Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit explained, “If the battery gets stuck, it breaks down water in the body to produce a chemical that causes severe internal burns,” she said.
“The symptoms are very non-specific, sometimes it can be a partial refusal of food, drooling a bit more than usual and a fever.
“If you must have a product that operates on a disc battery, make sure the product is of sufficient quality and durability, so it can withstand being dropped without the compartment popping open.”
One Sydney mother, Francesca Lever, knows how terrifying an experience it is to have their baby swallow a button battery and be hospitalized. Her 9-month-old son Leo swallowed a small circular battery in April 2014 and had to have emergency surgery which involved Leo staying in intensive care for two weeks.
The battery was the size of a coin and got stuck in Leo’s oesophagus.
Francesca told the ABC, “He had a rattling noise coming from his breathing, and for a couple of days he didn’t want to eat and then after he picked up after a couple of days he was trying to eat but he kept gagging and vomiting.”
“We finally had a chest X-Ray after our third trip to the emergency room. We were rushed straight into theatre.”
Leo has made a full recovery, two years on and Ms Lever fully supports the new campaign.
“I think the beauty of this campaign is promoting the awareness for everybody, not just for parents but for grandparents, anyone who’s coming into contact with children, that they are dangerous and the danger and toxicity must not ever be underestimated,” she said.
Allison Rees also supports the campaign, as her 14-month-old daughter, Isabella died after swallowing a battery last year.
Ms Rees told the ABC,”I would like every single household item that contains batteries to be secured by a screw that isn’t able to be easily accessed by a child, in particular things like TV remote controls. ”
“We set up a Facebook page 12 months ago just trying to educate mums and dads, grandparents, everyone out there, on the dangers of button batteries.”
A coroner in Queensland recommended the button-sized batteries need to be made safe, if swallowed.
The recommendation was made last year after the death of a four-year-old Sunshine Coast girl Summer Steer who was the first child to die from a button battery.
There have been 13 recommendations made about the batteries, including safer batteries, secure packaging and adequate warnings about the implications of being swallowed.
In 2013, the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission asked the industry to put warning signs on products containing button batteries and to ensure the packaging was child-proof.
The new recommendations will definitely make parents feel less wary about their children being around toys and devices that rely on the button batteries for their energy source.