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Button batteries continue to be a serious hazard for kids, researcher say

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Every 75 minutes, a child is treated in the ER for a battery-related injury. That’s what researchers from Safe Kids Worldwide and Nationwide Children’s Hospital have concluded after analyzing a decades’ worth of data (2010 to 2019).

Ingestion was the No. 1 cause for battery-related ER visits, at 90% – up from 77% over the previous decade. Button batteries, typically used in small electronic devices such as hearing aids, watches, toys, remote controls and flashlights, were involved in 85% of the cases in which the battery type was known. If swallowed, button batteries can burn through tissue in the esophagus, leading to injury and death.

“Unfortunately, past prevention efforts have yet to lead to significantly reduced injury rates,” said Mark Chandler, lead study author and senior research associate at Safe Kids Worldwide. “Both regulatory efforts and increased public awareness of the hazards are needed. Until secure battery compartment designs and, ultimately, a safer button battery technology are widely adopted by industry, these injuries in children will continue.”

In 2017, the Consumer Product Safety Commission changed its toy safety standard to require toys with button batteries to have warning labels and instructions. The standard doesn’t cover other types of products.

Reese’s Law, signed in August, directs the CPSC to develop testing standards for child-resistant battery compartments on devices powered by button batteries. The law also requires that those devices have labels that communicate the risk of button battery ingestion.

The researchers and other experts recommend keeping all battery-controlled devices out of sight and reach of children.

If you suspect a child has swallowed a battery, call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at (800) 498-8666.

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