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Family

Button battery tragedy: Grieving parents demand Canberra act on unsafe products

Some children’s products have up to 98 percent failure rate on CHOICE Australia tests.

By Rebel Wylie
An analysis of CHOICE test data has found an alarming rate of key products designed for children still pose a risk on store shelves.
And enough is enough. On Wednesday, doctors, industry, experts and parents converged on Canberra to demand action. Over 26,000 Australians have joined CHOICE's campaign asking for the Federal Government to act.
Among them, Andrea Shoesmith and Allison Rees who have both lost children to button batteries. The brave women shared their stories with parliamentarians in the hope that the time has finally come that tragic accidents like this won't haunt any more Australian families moving forward.
Allison Rees (right) and Andrea Shoesmith (left) have both lost children to button batteries and are demanding that action be taken now. (Image: CHOICE)
Alarming statistics from CHOICE highlight that there's a lot to be concerned about when it comes to parenting products on the Australian market.
  • Portable cots (60 tested from 2011–2018*): 98 percent or 59 failed.
  • Strollers (163 tested from 2012–2019): 83 percent or 136 failed.
  • Cots (173 tested from 2012–2019): 59 percent or 102 failed.
    *Most recent test conducted
CHOICE also warns that inaction on button batteries is a sleeper issue with an investigation earlier this year finding 10 out of 17 button battery powered household items were dangerous.
"The Australian government should make it illegal to sell unsafe products. New safety laws would see companies face large fines for flooding the Australian market with unsafe junk," says CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland.
"We need stronger laws to curb the risks associated with unsecured button batteries and other products that we already know are unsafe but are still being sold."
Little Summer Steer was just four years old when she died after swallowing a button battery. (Image: Supplied)
Every week children are admitted to hospital with suspected button battery ingestions despite regulations that are meant to make them less accessible to inquisitive babies and toddlers.
Andrea Shoesmith, whose four-year-old daughter Summer Steer died in 2013 after swallowing a button battery petitioned Parliament on Wednesday to make sure her daughter's death was not in vain.
Like many parents, Andrea didn't know just how dangerous button batteries were.
"I didn't have a clue," Andrea told CHOICE. "Now, I see them on the ground and it's just so disappointing that the danger still isn't taken seriously.
"These batteries are shiny, they're attractive to kids and they look like a lolly.
Knowing that the coroner recommended changes to the way batteries are designed and packaged, Andrea is frustrated that children are still being injured by these common items.
"It's just so disappointing. Is nobody listening?" she asks.
One-year-old Isabella Reese died in 2015 after ingesting a button battery. (Image: Supplied)
Allison Rees' 14-month-old daughter, Isabella, swallowed a button battery in 2015 and died as a result of the damage it caused when it lodged in her oesophagus.
Despite her grief, Allison is now dedicated to ensuring everybody understands the potentially devastating effects of button batteries.
"It does seem like politicians are starting to realise that there's a need for laws to protect our kids," she told CHOICE.
"It's been four years since I lost Bella and there have been countless injuries to children because of button batteries. Some can't eat, have breathing injuries, others are paralysed. Something should have been done a lot earlier," Allison says.
"The coroner has called on the health ministers, but will they listen?" she asks. "I'd really love the government to step up on this and do something."
"Businesses should be legally required to take reasonable steps to make sure the products they sell are safe," says CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland.
"It's really that simple. Without this reform, people will continue to be hurt and even killed by dangerous products like button battery powered devices. It's essential that parliament be forced to take this problem seriously and legislate a solution."
WATCH: SIDS safe sleeping. Continues after video ...
"Two children have died in Australia after ingesting button batteries and there have been at least 17 cases of children being seriously injured in Australia since December 2017," says Alan Kirkland.
"The batteries are shiny, smooth and easy to swallow and there can be little indication anything is wrong until it is too late."
"It's too late for Bella, [but] it's not too late for everyone else and I want to do all I can to protect the kids of Australia," says Allison.
"As a parent you want to protect your kids and I wasn't able to save Bella. That's why I'll keep fighting to protect all of our children."
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