Are you aware just how many products around your house use button batteries?
Our homes and even childcare centres use any number of devices that operate with button batteries. To name a few – baby monitors, toys, remote controls, key fobs, thermometers, watches, calculators, bathroom and kitchen scales, musical greeting cards, electronic jewellery, cameras, candles, flashing decorations, reading lights, even hearing aids!
Every day in Australia there is at least one child who needs to go to hospital because they swallowed a button battery.
The real danger with button batteries is that they can burn through soft tissue and cause serious injury and death in as little as two hours and there have been two deaths from button battery-related injuries in recent times.
Even a flat battery can contain enough charge to burn little throats if it is ingested!
This issue has drawn a lot of comment on social media of late with many offering the simple “just keep them out of reach” or “why would you let babies play with toys with batteries?”. While 31% of children swallowed a battery they had got out of a toy or product, 21% managed to extricate them from new packets of batteries and another 20% swallowed a battery found loose somewhere in the house, i.e. in a drawer or on the floor, worryingly, the source of the batteries for 11% of these accidents was unknown. Any of us who have witnessed the tenacity of a small child when they set their mind to getting something is well aware that flimsy packaging or putting something away ‘safely’ is not always a deterrent to a determined two-year-old!
Alarmingly, when Choice tested devices using these batteries, they discovered 10 out of the 17 tested were easily accessed. Director of the Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit, Dr Ruth Barker, wants industry to adopt stricter safety standards and says, "Although the products tested may not seem to be the sort of thing a young child would be attracted to, the research shows that children access batteries from a diverse range of common household products," Barker says.
"Sometimes the product is dropped, and the battery released, the product is left on the coffee table, car seat, or kitchen bench, and sometimes kids climb or rummage about to find batteries from the most unlikely sources, even several years after the initial purchase. Novelties and cheap plastic products, often sold with a 'this is not a toy' label, are a serious issue, but in general toys are not the main culprit. Quality toys tend to be designed with battery safety in mind."
What’s the answer?
The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network advises parents to:
· Keep button batteries and all other batteries in a child resistant locked cupboard that is at least 1.5 metres above ground, out of reach of children.
· Keep spare batteries locked away, out of reach.
· Check that all remotes, toys and products containing button batteries have a screw to secure them. If the batteries are not secured in with a screw, keep out of reach of children.
· Buy new batteries in child resistant packaging i.e. the packets need to be opened with scissors.
As a consumer, you can:
· Ask retailers to ensure batteries are displayed above child height in stores
· Choose products that are powered with safer cylindrical batteries or ones where the disc battery is fully encased.
· If a product has an accessible battery compartment or if the battery is secured but there is no warning label, complain to your local office of Fair Trading citing the industry code.
· While many battery suppliers have implemented warning labels and child-resistant packaging – but not all – if there is no warning label or the packaging is easily opened, contact the supplier to raise your concerns.
Remember: Safe Practice, Safe Place, Safe Product, Safe Policy for every sleep for every child
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