Button batteries inside children’s toys present safety concerns
MADISON, Wis. — Button batteries, used to power electronic toys, games and remote controls, can cause big safety problems if children can get them out of the device.
“The problem is that for younger kids that don’t know any better, it looks like something that they could or should put in their mouth, and that’s what we’re finding is that children are putting these in their mouths, and it is causing very serious damage, if not death,” said Nicole Vesely, safe kids coordinator at American Family Children’s Hospital.
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, approximately 2,800 children in the United States are treated annually in emergency rooms after swallowing a button battery. The number of serious injuries and deaths as a result of ingesting a button battery has increased ninefold in the last decade.
“It turns into a chemical reaction in their throats, so it can burn a hole in their esophagus within just two hours of swallowing it,” Vesely said.
Children who ingest button batteries can face multiple surgeries and lengthy hospitalizations to recover.
In addition to toys, health officials are also concerned about button battery use in musical greeting cards. The cards contain button batteries that are attached to paper inside the card.
“A lot of times these cards are geared toward kids — they are singing kidss songs, and you find them for kids in the aisles,” Vesely said.
Vesely said it is important for parents to purchase toys that require a screwdriver to open the battery compartment, which can prevent a child from getting their hands on the batteries. She also said that if musical greeting cards are given to very young children, it is important for parents to monitor them while they’re being used.
Any parent who suspects that a child has ingested a battery should go to the hospital immediately. The symptoms a child would present after ingesting a battery are similar to that of the flu or a cold. Because time is critical to prevent further damage from the battery, parents should go directly to the emergency room.
Button battery manufacturers have been working to address the problem by placing warning labels on the batteries, but it is still important for parents to be aware of the danger and take appropriate precautions.