Warning over safety of button batteries

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West Sussex Trading Standards are warning parents to be on their guard about the dangers to young children of small batteries in electronic devices.

As more compact electronic devices appear in the home, young children face a greater risk of serious injury or even death from the small button cell batteries that power these devices.

If a young child or baby swallows a lithium battery, due to a chemical reaction with the saliva, within as little as an hour it could leak acid and cause such a severe trauma as to burn a hole in throat or stomach, causing further damage to other internal organs.

In the United States, according to the National Capitol Poison Centre, some 3,500 incidents are reported every year where a person has swallowed a button cell battery and requires urgent treatment. And, in Australia, according to the Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit, it is estimated that four children a week are admitted to hospital because of complications arising out ingesting these small batteries. Currently, figures are not available for the UK.

Peter Aston, Trading Standards Manager at West Sussex County Council, said: “Of the many electronic devices that contain these batteries, it is only a requirement for toys to have lockable battery compartments. So young children will often have access to other common household products where they could easily remove these batteries, such as remote controls, key fobs, musical books and greeting cards, flameless candles, and calculators and Christmas decorations.

“Earlier this year, as part of our work looking at the safety of goods at charity shops, we found some child appealing neon rings that had insecure button cells in them. They would clearly appeal to children and we worked with the charity to remove them from sale nationally.”

The advice from Trading Standards is:

• Ensure your child does not have access to these devices if the battery compartment is not secure,

• Make certain that spare batteries are locked away,

• Ensure used batteries are disposed of correctly.

• If your child does swallow a button cell battery, seek medical advice immediately.

If you have bought a toy suitable for a young child and it does not have a secured battery compartment, you can let Trading Standards know by calling 03454 040506 or go online at www.westsussex.gov.uk/tsreport.