(San Diego, CA)– They look like buttons and are widely used in household products including remote controls, watches, calculators, small toys, hearing aids, small electronic devices and many other products which children have easy access too. They are called button batteries, made of lithium, and when accidentally ingested by young children can cause serious harm to a child or even be fatal. The batteries have a nominal voltage between 1.5 and 3 volts and vary in weight from 1-10 grams. Doctors say batteries that are swallowed can cause damage to the esophageal wall, vocal cord paralysis, and chemical burns. Curious kids often stick the batteries in their nose or ears, leading to perforation of the ear drum and even nose deformities.
“The button batteries are dangerous, they are attractive to kids because they are small and shinny, and they can easily be put in their nose, ear or they can swallow it,” said Marcella Bothwell, M.D., pediatric otolaryngologist, at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego. “The coin-sized batteries can completely block the throat, blocking air passages and even trigger a chemical process and burn through tissue within just a few hours.”
According to the National Capitol Poison Center, more than 3,500 people in the United States, mostly children, swallow or ingest button batteries every year. Doctors at Rady Children’s see about 10 cases per year. Dr. Bothwell is in favor of enacting new laws that would require manufacturers that use button batteries to place warning labels about the dangers and to require them to have secure child proof locking mechanisms.
The National Capital Poison Center has established a 24-hour National Button Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333 for parents or physicians to report any cases or you can contact the California Poison Action line at 800-222-1222.