Button batteries are increasingly found in household devices. If a child swallows a button battery it can get stuck in their oesophagus or elsewhere in their system, and burn through soft tissue in as little as two hours, causing serious illness or death. Recovery can require feeding and breathing tubes, and multiple surgeries. Lifelong disability can result.
With the overall objective of reducing incidents of child exposure to button batteries, a National Strategy has been developed by all Australian Consumer Law (ACL) regulators, with the ACCC playing a coordinating role. Over the next two years all ACL regulators will be collecting evidence to inform regulatory and other approaches to improve button battery safety. Marketplace surveillance will be undertaken in all jurisdictions to raise awareness and guide supplier and industry improvement of the safety of consumer products that use button batteries.
To support the launch of the National Strategy, the ACCC has produced a button battery safety video and is announcing support for a newly developed Industry Code to further assist in reducing the hazards of button batteries. The Industry Code has been developed by Industry representatives and is an important resource for business and the community.
Video: Button battery safety in the home
Our latest button battery safety video shows practical steps parents and carers can use around the home to keep children safe.
An Industry Code has been developed by a range of businesses with support from the ACCC and state regulators. The Code recommends that suppliers of consumer goods incorporate safety features in their products, including:
- completely sealed battery enclosures
- battery enclosures that are secured with a screw, requiring the use of a tool to gain access to the batteries
- battery compartment covers that require two or more independent and simultaneous actions to open
- child resistant packets for sale of button batteries
- warnings about the hazard and advice about how to seek medical treatment.
The Code also encourages retailers to improve store design by:
- ensuring retail displays keep button batteries out of reach of children and include signage to alert consumers to the hazards of button batteries.
National strategy goals
The goal of the national strategy is to investigate the feasibility of a regulated approach to button battery safety. To do this, ACL regulators will assess the need for regulatory action while conducting the following:
- implement and monitor the effectiveness of industry actions, following the voluntary adoption of the Industry Code for consumer products that contain button batteries
- raising community awareness of the hazard of button batteries
- monitoring relevant health and injury data
- evaluating existing safety standards
- conducting retail surveillance, product recalls and other ACL regulator actions.
In Australia, two children have died from button battery related injuries. Each week, an estimated 20 children visit an emergency department with suspected exposure to button batteries.
The most serious cases involve 10 cent-sized batteries, but all sizes can be dangerous. Children under five years old are at the greatest risk.
- Keep button batteries and devices out of sight and out of reach of small children.
- Examine devices and make sure the battery compartment is secure.
- Dispose of used button batteries immediately. Flat batteries can still be dangerous.
- If you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery, immediately call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or go to a hospital emergency room. Do not let the child eat or drink and do not induce vomiting
- Tell others about the risk associated with button batteries and how to keep their children safe.