New safety standards for button batteries

Button batteries are tiny and deadly.

Button batteries will have to meet new mandatory safety and information standards to protect children.

After years of lobbying from consumer and child safety groups, the federal government announced the new standards on Monday 21 December.

The announcement comes just before Christmas when children may receive gifts powered by the deadly batteries.

In Australia, three children have died from injuries that resulted from swallowing a button battery. Dozens of others have also suffered severe injuries.

The new mandatory safety and information standards require:
– Secure battery compartments for consumer goods that contain button batteries, where the batteries are intended to be replaced, to prevent children from gaining access to the batteries
– Compliance testing of consumer goods that contain button batteries, whether or not the batteries are intended to be replaced, to demonstrate the battery is secure and cannot be easily released
– Child resistant packaging for button batteries, based on their risk profile, to prevent children from gaining access to the batteries
– Warnings and information to alert consumers that a button battery is included with the product

Button batteries can be found in toys and other devices children like to chew, and often require surgery to remove.

The federal government estimates that since December 2017, there have been at least 44 cases where young children have suffered severe injuries following the ingestion or insertion of button batteries.

However, Kidsafe has previously said the tally is much higher, estimating that 20 children each week present to Australian emergency departments with a button battery related injury.

In March last year, Cranbourne girl Shaylah Carmichael had a deadly button battery stuck inside her oesophagus for months.

Mum Kirra said her youngest child was extremely lucky to have survived the horror ordeal. Since then she’s been on a mission to have mandatory safety standards introduced.

Consumer group CHOICE had also been pushing for the introduction of new safety standards to protect children.

“CHOICE has been calling for a mandatory standard for button batteries for a number of years and is pleased that the new rules will help prevent further deaths and injury to young children in Australia,” product safety campaigner Amy Pereira said.

“It shouldn’t be up to parents and families to test the safety of products in their homes. They should be able to trust that what they buy will not harm their loved ones.

“In addition to mandatory standards, a general product safety provision in the consumer law will help ensure that products at shops and online are safe for all consumers.”

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) also welcomed the introduction of the new standards, which were announced by Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar.

“The introduction of these standards is an important step in improving the safety of button batteries and helping prevent injury to children,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.