(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 to. 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.
A study published today in Pediatrics shows an increase in the number of children going to emergency rooms for treatment after ingesting button batteries or sticking them in the nose or ears. From 1990-2009 there were roughly 66,000 emergency department visits by children under age 18 years associated with batteries during the 20-year study period.
“The button batteries are dangerous, they are attractive to kids because they are small and shiny, and they can easily be put in their nose, ear or they can swallow it,” Pediatric Otolaryngologist, Marcella Bothwell, M.D., said. “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.”
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.
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.