ACCC looks at safety of button batteries

Button batteries can be lethal if ingested.
Button batteries can be lethal if ingested.

A HIGH number of unsafe toys and other products containing button batteries are still on sale in Australia, despite hundreds of children ending up in hospital.

Efforts by regulators and the industry have not been effective enough in reducing the hazards associated with button battery products, the consumer watchdog says.

Two children have died in Australia over the past six years after swallowing a button battery, while hundreds have ended up in emergency departments.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has now set up a taskforce to investigate ways to reduce the risk to children, which may include regulation.

The consumer watchdog has set up a taskforce to investigate ways to reduce the risk button batteries can pose to children. Picture: Getty

“The ACCC is aware of significant efforts made by some suppliers but overall has found a high level of unsafe button battery products remain available in the Australian market, and a meaningful decrease in the rate of button battery exposures or injuries is not yet apparent,” it said.

A voluntary industry code and a national strategy involving consumer affairs regulators were introduced in 2016.

But activities to raise community awareness and supplier self-regulation has not sufficiently reduced the risk of injury or death to children from exposure to button batteries, the ACCC said in an issues paper released on Friday.

It said issues remain with products not containing child resistant packaging or appropriate warning labels on button battery products.

There are also a high number of products in the market that do not contain a secure button battery compartment.

“If a child swallows a button battery it can get stuck in their oesophagus or elsewhere in their system, causing death or serious illness,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.

“Button batteries burn through soft tissue in as little as two hours and continue to pose a severe injury risk for children.

“It can be hard for doctors to identify the symptoms of battery button ingestion if the parent isn’t aware the child has swallowed one.”

Watches, toys, hearing aids, torches and remote controls are the most common sources where button batteries have been ingested or inserted.

Globally, at least 64 children have died and thousands have been injured after ingesting the flat, round, single cell batteries.

Children under six are particularly at risk, although there have also been adult cases involving hearing aids or cochlear implants.

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