Lithium Batteries A Danger to Children

We have been advocating stronger safety for our children, often the most seriously at risk from consumer products. One of the hidden dangers in many such products are <"">small button batteries. Now, the New York Times blog is writing about the serious reactions that occur when children inject button batteries. WebMD previously noted that so-called “button-type batteries are used in items such as “vibrating teethers” and “musical touch-and-learn baby books.”

The ubiquitous “tiny” batteries present serious dangers to children; however research indicates, said WebMD, that neither parents nor physicians really understand the potential and significant issues. Button batteries are those very small, round batteries that are no larger than the average adult thumbnail and can also be found in hearing aids, watches and calculators, and musical and voice greeting cards, in addition to many, many children’s toys and products, according to Web MD.

The blog pointed out that, even though children can undergo seemingly successful surgery to remove the batteries, there are other reactions that could be in progress—battery burns that run rampant through a child’s body and that can cause significant harm, even death. Last year, about 10 documented fatalities were recorded, said the NY Times blog, noting that although the number of deaths may seem small, the problem is relatively common, with children believing the batteries to be candy and the elderly mistaking them for drugs. The medical journal Pediatrics documented the issues in two separate reports this week.

Poison control centers say some 3,500 cases of button cell battery ingestion are reported annually, said the NY Times blog, noting that the problem has escalated with today’s stronger, smaller batteries. The National Capital Poison Center in Washington discussed a whopping seven-fold increase in severe complications from button cell ingestions in recent years, with moderate to severe cases increasing from less than a half percent—one dozen annually—to about three percent (or 100 cases each year), said the NY Times blog. The data were compiled from 56,000 cases since 1985.

Serious complications involve chemical reactions caused that can damage children’s vocal cords and gastrointestinal tract damage necessitating feeding tube insertion and surgeries, said the blog. “The injuries are so much more serious,” said Dr. Toby Litovitz, director and lead author of both articles in Pediatrics, quoted the NY Times blog. “It’s like drain opener or lye. It’s not something you want in the esophagus of your child,” Dr. Litovitz added.

Batteries that begin with the number 20—20 millimeters—are newer and stronger and considered very dangerous; batteries numbered 2032, 2025, and 2016 are linked to most—90 percent—serious battery injuries, said the NY Times blog. “Industry has shifted to this battery, and it has very popular appeal,” Dr. Litovitz said, quoted the NY Times blog. “There are a lot of reasons why we want to use this battery, but the problem is we’ve got to use it in a safer way

Ingesting or inhaling these small batteries can lead to long-term health problems, said Web MD when the battery becomes lodged in the body and results in “internal bleeding, tissue burns,” or windpipe holes, to name a few of the serious health problems, noted Web MD, noting voice loss or the need for feeding or breathing tubes.

Web MD advised that in the event of battery ingestion or inhalation—or finding that a child has placed a battery in his/her ear, the following should be contacted immediately: The National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 1-202-625-3333 (the hotline accepts collect calls) or the National Poison Control Center, toll-free, at 1-800-222-1222. Both numbers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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