Button Batteries - Can You Help Us Spread the Word?

A Blog from Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive, Child Accident Prevention Trust 

We rely on button batteries to power so many things in our homes, from remote controls to key finders, digital scales to thermometers.  They’re in lots of children’s things too – novelty nightlights, light-up yo-yos, musical books and cards.  But if a lithium coin cell battery gets stuck in a small child’s food pipe, it can burn a hole inside the body and cause serious internal bleeding and death.  That’s because the battery creates a chemical reaction that erodes soft tissue.  It can happen in as little as two hours. And it’s the equivalent of a child drinking drain cleaner. 

Report Recommends Action After 'Devastating Deaths'

Tragically, as a new report published by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) highlights, too few parents know about the dangers they pose or how to manage the risks.  While HSIB is an English body, many of its recommendations – on public awareness, product safety and support for clinical decision-making – apply UK-wide.

In terms of product safety, the Office for Product Safety and Standards has commissioned a fast-track safety standard looking at battery design, product casing, packaging and safe retailing. We will be part of the advisory group and will share updates via the Hub.

Parental education is key. We have updated our safety advice using insights from HSIB’s report and designed new free educational resources, including a downloadable poster and session plan supported by the British and Irish Portable Battery Association.

We need your help to spread the word to the families you and your organisations support.

A Proliferation of Button Batteries

Look around any family home and you’ll see a proliferation of products and gadgets powered by button batteries, particularly 3V lithium coin cell batteries like the CR2025, CR2032 and CR2330.
While toys from reputable retailers should have secure battery compartments, far too many products still don’t. Children aged one to four are at greatest risk, as they often put things they find in their mouths.  Spare batteries stored in a drawer or alongside the product are serious culprits. As too are discarded ‘flat’ batteries, as they can still hold enough power to badly hurt a child.  So it’s important for parents to know where coin cell batteries are in their homes, so they can keep them out of children’s reach and keep their children safe.

Our Five Top Tips to Share with Parents

  • Look round your home for lithium coin cell batteries – in products as well as spare and ‘flat’ batteries.
  • Keep products well out of children’s reach if the battery compartment isn’t secured.
  • Store spare button batteries in sealed containers in a high cupboard.
  • Put ‘flat’ or ‘dead’ batteries out of children’s reach straight away and recycle them safely and as quickly as possible.
  •  If you think your child has swallowed a button battery, don’t delay, take them to A&E straight away or call 999 for an ambulance.  Don’t let them eat or drink and don’t make them sick.

Spreading the Word

Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive, Child Accident Prevention Trust

Practice Exemplars

Are you taking forward work to protect children from button batteries?  Can you share what you’re doing, so others can learn from it? 

If you have an initaitive that you would like to share, please get in touch or download the Practice Exemplar template.