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New Child Health Scare Over 'Button Batteries'


The latest in a string ofhealth scares over children's toys and childcare products over thedangers from swallowing so-called 'button batteries' has highlightedthe benefits of childrens gift hampers that contain educational toys

By James Tweedie

An article published onMay 24 in the US medical journal Paediatrics warned that miniaturelithium-ion batteries could cause injury or even death.

These batteries measureabout 20mm wide or less and are used in watches, calculators,cameras, phones, pocket torches and even children's books, educational toys and soft toys.

The report follows concerns  about the effects of Phthalates (also known as plasticisers) and Bisphenol-A (BPA), chemicals which are found in plastic toys and childcare products.

Doctors are not just worried about the potential choking hazard from these small objects.If the battery lodges in a child's oesophagus, it can produce acurrent that burns the tissue causing serious medical problems or insome cases, death.

Paediatrician Dr RuthBergen said: "When the battery is lodged in the oesophagus itsits there for a long time, it causes necrosis and breakdown and youcan get a hole in the oesophagus."

She warned parents:"Don't leave them lying around. If you are done with them, don'tdiscard it in a place your child can get it."

Accidental swallowing oflithium button batteries is common but not usually harmful. However,the number of serious cases is increasing.

Between 1985 and 2009,poison control centres in the USA report nearly 60,000 calls about achild swallowing a lithium battery.

Between 1985 and 1987,just 0.06 percent of the cases resulted in severe complications,including death. Between 2007 and 2009 this rate rose seven-fold to0.44 per cent classified as severe or fatal.

A total of 13 fatalitiesfrom lithium batteries were reported between 1977 and 2009, 9 ofwhich occurred between 2004 and 2009.

Battery ingestion isdifficult for doctors to diagnose as children can present with commonflu-like symptoms as a result.

Children under four aremore likely to swallow thee batteries. In most cases, the parents didnot know that their child had done so.

The Paediatrics studyshowed that of the children who swallowed batteries, 62 per cent hadremoved them from a toy or device, 30 per cent found them in rubbishbins, and 8 per cent got them from product packaging.

The authors advisedparents to make sure that the battery covers on all devices aresecure, and that used batteries should only be disposed of in binsthat their children cannot access. They singled out the Battery typesCR2032 (pictured), CR2025 and CR2016 as hazards.

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