Button batteries – the most important message

It’s international Button Battery Awareness Day on 12 June. The day was set up in the USA by Reese’s Purpose, after 17 month-old Reese Hamsmith died from a button battery lodged in her oesophagus. The day is also marked this year by similarly bereaved Australian button battery safety advocates, Bella’s Footprints.

There’s so many aspects to button battery safety and strategies have been conducted on several fronts:

  • Regulations introduced in Australia in 2022 require child-resistant battery compartments on consumer products
  • Doctors and other medical staff are much more alert to the chance of a swallowed battery than previously
  • Parents better know to look for symptoms

But while these measures make a significant difference, we cannot relax yet!

The regulations only deal with product that’s been sold since June 2022. That means any product powered by a button battery that we owned before then could still be a major risk.

As I wrote in a 2016 blog Button Batteries Everywhere, many consumer products have a long lifespan and will be around for many years to come – with insecure or broken battery compartments.

That might be the most important message in 2023: To keep a regular check on any household and personal items that you own.

Toddler with button battery remotes

Checking products

Check all the gadgets in your house to ensure all button batteries are firmly sealed inside. Maybe add a reminder in your diary to do a scan once a month.

Most product suppliers should be compliant with the regulation by now and the ACCC and state agencies are being tough on any breaches. But if you’re buying button battery-powered gadgets, especially from online or overseas retailers, do check for compartment security.

And don’t use any DIY fixes like sticky-tape to hold the compartment together. If it can’t be properly secured, throw it away and get a new one (Take care to safely dispose of the product; don’t donate it; recycle electronic items).

Loose batteries

It’s also essential to make sure no loose batteries are in the home. The mandatory standard for batteries requires blister packaging to be designed to only release one battery at a time.

And for used batteries, careful disposal is needed:

  • Wrap the battery with sticky-tape (to make it less likely to be swallowed by children, and potentially reduce the internal damage if swallowed)
  • Store securely until taken for disposal
  • Take to a designated disposal collection point

Button batteries awareness

Avoid button battery powered products in the first place

Of course, the fewer products we buy that have button batteries, the less we need to rely on this kind of vigilance.

As Kidsafe has said, “Despite detailed Coronial recommendations following Summer’s inquest in 2015 and years of advocacy to implement these recommendations……..it still comes down to this. Industry are still making button batteries, companies are still selling button batteries, and we are still buying them.”

Consumers, especially those with babies and toddlers, can choose not to buy button battery powered products.

The less demand for a product, the more the market will respond. Alternatives include USB rechargeable sealed devices and other batteries, like AAAs.

I am aware that many retailers have chosen to no longer stock any products that contain or use button batteries. This has increased since the mandatory standards came in. And many suppliers have been working with manufacturers to design products that use other types of battery. I have highlighted a few examples on my Gold Star Suppliers page.

If we all stay vigilant, the chance of catastrophic button battery swallowing injuries will be much reduced. Please share this advice far and wide.