Running from 16 to 20 June 2014, the OECD-led International Awareness Week on Button Battery Safety aimed to raise awareness worldwide of the risks and dangers posed by a product that is present in nearly every home around the world: small batteries that are used in a variety of products, and are commonly referred to as “button batteries”.
The initiative was meant to ensure that relevant authorities and other stakeholders take the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of injury and death amongst consumers using button batteries. Consumers worldwide need to be aware of the serious injuries that such products can cause if children swallow them.
The co-ordinated approach also served to boost pro-active actions by businesses to promote good practices on button battery safety, in particular with respect to warnings, packaging and product design.
In addition to national and regional campaigns, these issues were addressed in Brussels on 17 June 2014, during International Product Safety Week.
About button batteries
- Button batteries are coin-sized batteries found in many household products such as toys, calculators, remote control devices that unlock car doors, TV remote controls, hearing aids, bathroom or kitchen scales, reading lights, flameless candles and talking and singing books and greeting cards.
- Many of these devices have battery compartments that are easy to open and most people do not know there are safety concerns.
- If swallowed, button batteries can cause significant, permanent injuries, or death.
- Button batteries can lodge especially in a child’s throat, where saliva immediately triggers an electrical current, causing a chemical reaction that can severely burn through the oesophagus in as little as two hours.
- The severity of the burn can continue to worsen even after a battery has been removed. Treatment can involve feeding and breathing tubes and multiple surgeries.
Helpful safety steps for parents and carers of young children
- Keep coin-sized button batteries out of sight and out of the reach of children.
- Pay attention to warnings and labels describing the dangers of button batteries in various everyday products.
- Check that devices or products with button batteries have design that avoids easy access to the battery compartments for children.
- Examine devices periodically and make sure the battery compartments are secure.
- Dispose of used button batteries immediately. Flat batteries can still be dangerous.
- If you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery, immediately bring the child to a hospital emergency room. Do not let the child eat or drink and do not induce vomiting.
- Tell others about the risk associated with button batteries and how to keep children safe from this still largely underestimated risk.
Participating countries and jurisdictions
Awareness week was promoted by the OECD. Participating countries, jurisdictions and authorities included Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the European Commission, France, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Mexico, New Zealand, the Organization of American States, Peru, Portugal and the United States.
Join the campaign
Stakeholders, including consumers, businesses and governments are invited to continue raising awareness via social media. Help us get the word out on Facebook and Twitter (hashtag #worldbatterysafety).
For more information see the message from the OECD and/or contact Chandni Gupta (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission).
The European Portable Batteries Association (EPBA) has launched a website, available in 14 languages, with information on the risks related to button batteries as well as advice to parents and the medical sector.