Local News

New code to stop deadly button batteries taking children’s lives

But does it go far enough?

Every week 20 children are admitted to hospitals around Australia after swallowing a button battery. Two children have died because of the internal havoc these little batteries wreak on little bodies.

And if you’ve ever watched any of the quite horrific videos or seen photos of what one of these tiny disc-shaped batteries can do to a sausage, you will know how lethal they are. The thing is the batteries are are used in everything nowadays from children’s toys, to TV remote controls and kitchen scales.

Today a new code designed to reduce the number of deaths and injuries from children swallowing button batteries in Australia, has been announced and all Australian businesses that sell products that contain these potentially dangerous batteries are being urged to support it.

This voluntary code asks businesses to reconsider selling any goods containing coin-sized lithium button batteries, and boycott items that don’t comply with the code. Stores are also being advised to place items beyond the reach of young children and run point-of-sale cautions for parents.

Despite a strong campaign led by consumer advocacy Choice and parents, the code falls short of demanding a compulsory standard for childproof battery compartments and packaging.

Mum Francesca Lever has become the “real mum” voice of this campaign. Two years ago her son Leo, then nine months old, became seriously ill – but it took six days for doctors at the hospital to discover the little boy had a button battery lodged in his oesophagus, and it was slowly burning through.

Baby Leo today and two years ago in hospital. PHOTO: Facebook

He had emergency surgery to remove the battery but it took a month before the little Leo could return home from hospital. ““He had swallowed a ¬battery but we had no idea — he was distressed, vomiting and refusing to eat, and he had a fever so I thought it was a virus,” Francesca said at the time, highlighting how hard it can be to diagnose it.

On ABC radio this morning, Francesca said that while she welcomed the new code, it only went some of the way to safeguarding our children from accidentally swallowing these potential killers.

The ACCC says it’s is vital that other businesses commit to the Code in order to save lives.

“Children under the age of five are at the greatest risk. If they get their hands on one of the many products in the home that contain button batteries they can get the batteries out unless the compartments containing the batteries are secured. Once loose, children can easily mistake the batteries for lollies,” says ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard .

“This new code is an important step towards ensuring children cannot access the batteries, thereby reducing the risk that they will swallow them.”

She added that educating parents, as well as doctors, about the dangers of button batteries was a key purpose of the code. “A lot of doctors don’t recognise the signs, so we are making sure they know the symptoms and getting common procedures in place.”

Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, Energiser Australia and Officeworks are among major retailers who have adopted the new code.

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