By consumer affairs reporter Amy Bainbridge.
Tough new safety regulations are needed to protect children from potentially lethal button batteries, consumer advocates say.
The small round batteries, used to power everything from toys to bathroom scales, are easy to swallow and have contributed to the deaths of two Australian children.
They also cause about 20 presentations to emergency departments each week.
The consumer group Choice has teamed up with Kidsafe Queensland and The Parenthood to call on the Federal Government to introduce stricter safety standards for all products containing button batteries.
“What we need to see is all products that carry button batteries have a screwed compartment so the battery can’t come out,” Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said.
“We’d also like to see the button batteries sold in child-proof packaging.
“In Australia at the moment button batteries aren’t required to be sold in child-proof packaging.
“…You’ll find that these button batteries are very easily accessible by little kids.”
Mr Godfrey said new figures show the production of the lithium batteries in China alone will triple by 2020.
Emergency paediatrician Ruth Barker is the director of the Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit.
Dr Barker told the ABC it only took two seconds for a child to pick up a battery and swallow it.
“If the battery gets stuck, it breaks down water in the body to produce a chemical that causes severe internal burns,” she said.
“The symptoms are very non-specific, sometimes it can be a partial refusal of food, drooling a bit more than usual and a fever.
“If you must have a product that operates on a disc battery, make sure the product is of sufficient quality and durability, so it can withstand being dropped without the compartment popping open.”
Danger of batteries must not be ‘underestimated’: mother
Sydney mother Francesca Lever’s nine-month-old son Leo swallowed a button battery in April 2014, and wound up having emergency surgery and staying in intensive care for two weeks.