Button Batteries May Pose Serious Health Risks for Children: Report

At least 14 children under the age of four have died after swallowing small, button-sized batteries since 1995, according to federal health officials. 

In a report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) this week, the agencies indicate that more than 40,000 children under the age of 13 were treated in a hospital emergency room for a battery injury between 1997 and 2010.

Nearly 75 percent of the cases involved children age four or under, with the majority of ingestions occurring with small button or coin sized batteries, 20 mm in diameter and under. These “button” batteries are commonly used in items such as toys, remote controls, watches, flashlights, hearing aids and light up jewelry.

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Risks With Children Swallowing Batteries

If a young child swallows a battery, this could lead to the small objects becoming lodged in the esophagus, potentially causing injury and death.

Signs or symptoms that a child swallowed a battery often appear as severe abdominal pain or vomiting. Unfortunately, by this point serious damage may have already been done, including burns, ulcers and damage to the esophagus or stomach.

The report was compiled from data analyzed involving any battery related injury in children aged 13 and younger. The data was collected from 96 different hospital emergency rooms between 1995 and 2010.

Only cases identified as confirmed oral exposures were used. This included the diagnosis of a foreign body ingestion, which was either confirmed by radiography or by finding the battery in the stool. It may have also included a statement confirming a child swallowing, chewing or sucking on a battery.

The CDC found a statistically significant increase in battery related emergency room visits, resulting in a 2.5 fold increase between 1998 and 2010. In 1998, the CDC had a total of 1,900 reported cases in comparison to the 4,800 cases in 2010.

Data was collected from various databases, including the Injury and Potential Injury Incident File, Death Certificate Database (DTHS) and the In-Depth Investigation File (INDP).

The CDC, public health and healthcare providers encourage parents to keep button batteries and products containing accessible button batteries away from young children. The CPSC reminds parents to never let children play with batteries and to dispose of used batteries properly.

If consumers believe a child has possibly ingested a battery, federal health officials urge parents or caregivers to take the child to an emergency room immediately.


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