Public Domain image via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LR44_Button_Cell_Battery_IEC_Standard_Version.jpg
Button batteries are small discs that are used to power many toys, accessories, hearing aids, remote controls and other household items. Even musical greeting cards contain these small batteries embedded within the card. While commonly used, these button batteries are dangerous for children. They are very small and, if eaten, can pose serious risks and dangers for children.
It has long been known that swallowing button batteries can be fatal or cause serious harm and, as a response in recent years, many manufacturers have been better securing these batteries and/or recalling products where risk may present itself.
Past research suggests “severe injuries in children, though relatively scarce, are on the rise.” (Associated Press via The Durango Herald). At that time the National Capital Poison Center in Washington D.C. reported each year more than 3,500 people of all ages swallow battery buttons. Children are particularly vulnerable to swallowing or inserting batteries in noses or ears.
In 2010 a medical report had been released which examines 10 cases treated at a Utah hospital between 1998 and 2008; this report emphasized the dangers of button batteries. In these cases all the patients were babies and young children, many required major surgery due to the battery ingestion. Dr. Albert Park, co-author and a head and neck specialist, states that their hospital sees at least one case a month.
In some instances if these are swallowed, the button batteries does simply passes through the body through stool, however occasionally the batteries do not pass through. If this occurs, the batteries can pose significant risk and be dangerous.
The National Capital Poison Center reports that many different bodily injuries can arise if a battery does not pass through the digestion system. For instance, batteries that get stuck in the esophagus can cause tissue damage, and in some cases, form an electrical current and result in a burn. Dr. Toby Litovitz, director of the agency, states in the throat “the window for safely removing batteries is only two hours.” (AP)
Dr. Litovitz also cites some statistics. She refers to 80 severe cases which have been reported since the 1970s and of these cases, approximately half have occurred since 2004; 10 of 14 deaths reported since 1977 occurred in the last six years. These statistics do not include cases which likely go unreported.
This broaches some important questions. Why are these statistics on the rise? Are manufacturers paying less attention to security and creating products that are not as child friendly as we’d like? Perhaps, however it should also be considered that many more toys and household items are more likely to use batteries in today’s highly technologically centric society. This could potentially factor in the surge of severe injuries and deaths related to button batteries simply due to volume of batteries used.
Whatever the reason behind the rise, it is important for public awareness of this issue to ensure the safety of children. Many toys or other items have the batteries embedded and people may not even realize these small batteries are a part of the product.
In 2010 popular child-friendly restaurant Chuck E. Cheese recalled 1.1 million light-up rings and 120,000 star glasses due to the ingestion dangers associated with button batteries. Two incidents were reported with the rings, in one situation the child swallowed the battery, in the other, the battery was inserted into the nose. These fortunately did not result in injuries, but did illustrate the possibility of severe consequences.
If suspected ingestion of button batteries occurs, it is important to be careful how the situation is handled. It is best to get it checked out and follow the professionally recommended directives to avoid further injury or increase risks. The National Capitol Poison Center operates a round-the-clock hotline and posts steps on what to do if a suspected ingestion does occur.
Leigh has been writing on the web since 2007. She has a high interest in business, tech, higher education, and Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia travel, but loves to write about a variety of topics. In addition to writing on Writedge, she also runs a blog about the Washington DC Metro Area and a photography blog Photos by Leigh Goessl.