Kids’ lives at risk from button battery safety failures

Household items with button batteries are failing safety tests at an alarming rate.

Children’s lives are being jeopardised by businesses ignoring the risks of button batteries, a leading consumer advocacy group says.

CHOICE says an alarming 10 out of 17 button battery powered household items are failing their safety tests, with the deadly batteries easily accessible.

“Given that at least 1 child a month suffers a serious injury after swallowing or inserting a button battery, it’s essential that industry be forced to take this problem seriously,” CHOICE Head of Policy and Campaigns, Sarah Agar said.

Two children have died in Australia after ingesting button batteries and there have been at least 17 cases of children being seriously injured in Australia since December 2017.

The batteries are shiny, smooth and easy to swallow and there can be little indication anything is wrong until it is too late.

Ms Agar said while toys for kids under three are legally required to have secure battery compartments, many everyday household items don’t.

“Thermometers, book lights, kitchen scales and a remote control were among the products that failed our button battery safety tests,” she said.

Ms Agar said industry was aware of this significant safety issue as there is a voluntary code requiring manufacturers to make the batteries secure.

“But our test results show it is being ignored by some major brands sold in big retail outlets like Priceline, Dymocks, David Jones and JB Hi-Fi,” she said.

“Self-regulation is failing, and it’s putting Australian children at risk of serious harm.”

CHOICE wants to see product safety laws overhauled to address the issue.

“We believe the Australian government should make it illegal to sell unsafe products, which would see companies face large fines for flooding the Australian market with unsafe junk and would go a long way to curbing the risks associated with unsecured button batteries and other inherently unsafe products,” Ms Agar said.

CHOICE safety tips on button batteries
1. If you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery, immediately call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or go to emergency. Do not let the child eat or drink, and do not induce vomiting.
2. Keep all button battery operated devices out of sight and out of reach of children.
3. Examine devices and make sure the battery compartment is secure.
4. Dispose of used button batteries immediately. Flat batteries can still be dangerous.
5. Tell others about the risk associated with button batteries, and how to keep their children safe.