CPSC Warns of Deaths Associated With Button Batteries

We routinely advocate stronger safety regarding a vast variety of consumer products; however, few issues are more important than the safety of our children, often the most seriously at risk. One hidden danger in many consumer products, even toys, is <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/product_liability">small button batteries.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) writes that small, coin-sized button batteries can be found in products in nearly every home in America. Young children and senior adults are unintentionally swallowing button batteries, sometimes with immediate and devastating consequences.

A recent study conducted by Dr. Toby Litovitz of the National Capital Poison Center, found that button battery-related incidents resulting in severe injury and fatality have increased seven-fold since 1985. The majority of reported incidents involve 20-mm diameter or, larger, 3-volt batteries. Occasionally, a swallowed battery will pass through the intestine. Most often, however, batteries that become lodged in the throat or intestine can generate and release hydroxide, resulting in dangerous chemical burns.

Incidents typically involve children under the age of four, as well as seniors. In most cases, children gain access to batteries directly from games, toys, calculators, remote controls, and other items left within a child’s reach. Senior adults have swallowed button batteries used in hearing aids after mistaking them for pills.

Parents are often unaware a child swallowed a button battery, making diagnosis difficult. In fact, in the recent study, more than 60 percent of reported incidents were initially misdiagnosed. Symptoms resemble common childhood ailments such as upset stomach and fever; in some case, no symptoms exist. “These incidents are preventable and CPSC is working to get ahead of this emerging hazard quickly,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “Our consumer awareness efforts and outreach to the electronics industry are under way.”

CPSC has reached out to the electronics industry and battery manufacturers, urging them to develop warnings and industry standards to address this issue and recommends the following to prevent unintentional battery ingestion:

• Discard button batteries carefully.

• Do not allow children to play with button batteries, and keep button batteries out of your child’s reach.

• Caution hearing aid users to keep hearing aids and batteries away from children.

• Never put button batteries in your mouth for any reason as they are easily swallowed accidentally.

• Always check medications before ingesting them. Adults have swallowed button batteries mistaken for pills or tablets.

• Keep remotes and other electronics out of your child’s reach if the battery compartments do not have a screw to secure them. Use tape to help secure the battery compartment

• If a button battery is ingested, immediately seek medical attention. The National Battery Ingestion Hotline is available anytime at 1.202.625.3333 and local poison control can also be accessed at 1.800.222.1212.

As we’ve previously written, according to the National Capital Poison Center, over 3,000 people swallow button batteries every year; most are young children. Ingesting or inhaling these small batteries can lead to long-term health problems. For instance, batteries will typically exit the body with a bowel movement; however, the battery can become lodged in the body and result in tissue burns, internal bleeding, windpipe holes, and other serious health problems, such as voice loss or the need for feeding or breathing tubes.

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