31 May 2016
Consumer group CHOICE has joined with The Parenthood and Kidsafe QLD to call on the Federal Government to introduce stricter safety standards for all products containing button batteries as the latest industry figures show the production of lithium batteries in China alone will triple by 2020.
The call comes in the wake of the death of two young girls from button battery related injuries and an estimated 20 hospitalisations per week nationwide after children swallow or insert button batteries.
"Button batteries are powerful, slim and light but they can also be lethal. It vital that the Federal Government acts to reduce the number of children ending up in emergency departments across the country having swallowed a button battery," says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.
"We are calling on the Federal Government to tighten the law around the sale of button batteries to ensure they are screwed in place and sold in child resistant packaging in a bid to arrest the alarming number of hospitalisations.
"At the moment only toys designed for children under three years of age are required by law to have secure battery compartments, which means that other everyday household items have no mandatory safety standards.
"A quick scan of your home will find poorly secured button batteries in everything from bathroom scales and calculators to remote controls, musical greeting cards, games and toys," Mr Godfrey says.
"Also known as disc or coin batteries, button batteries can cause chemical burns when stuck in body tissue and can be fatal. This can occur even when a consumer believes the battery to be flat.
"One of the problems with these batteries is that they can be swallowed easily without getting stuck or causing the child to cough, so unless someone sees it happen, parents or carers will be none the wiser.
"The symptoms are also varied, ranging from feeling slightly ill to having a mild cough. To make matters worse, children are often reluctant to tell anyone if they've swallowed something they weren't supposed to.
"With button batteries being used in a growing number of products, it's time to make products with button batteries child resistant," Mr Godfrey says.
For more on CHOICE's button batteries campaign, please visit: choice.com.au/buttonbatteries.
CHOICE, The Parenthood and Kidsafe QLD are calling for:
- All button battery powered products to have a secure battery compartment
- Button batteries of up to 32mm diameter to be sold in child-proof packaging
- Products supplied with a button battery to ensure the battery is secured within the battery compartment and not loose in the product packaging
- Products that use or contain button batteries to have clear and concise warnings, making the risk clear to consumers at point of purchase
- If you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery, immediately call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or go to a hospital emergency room. Do not let the child eat or drink, and do not induce vomiting.
- Keep all disc battery operated devices out of sight and out of reach of children.
- Examine devices and make sure the battery compartment is secure.
- Dispose of used button batteries immediately. Flat batteries can still be dangerous.
- Tell others about the risk associated with button batteries, and how to keep their children safe.