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Button Batteries Can Cause Serious Child Injuries

They may appear harmless enough but did you know that those tiny, round, button-sized batteries can cause serious injuries to children when swallowed? At The Gilbert Law Group®, our products liability lawyers represent families with kids and babies that have been injured because a consumer good was poorly designed or proved unsafe in other ways during use. Please do not hesitate to contact our child injury law firm and ask for your free case evaluation.
According to a study recently reported on in the journal Pediatrics, over a two-decade span, there were close to 66,000 battery-linked ER visits involving kids younger than 18, and by 2009, the yearly number had gone up by over 100%–from 2,591 to 5,525. More than 75% of these visits involved kids in the 5 and under age group. Also, in their just released analysis, the CPSC and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reporting that there have been 14 battery-related child deaths involving kids under the age of 14.
One reason button battery injuries are so common is that they can often be found in products at home and they are so small. Ways that a small battery might get into the body are ingestion, insertion through the ear canal, nasal cavity insertion, and mouth exposure.
In a May 2012 article on USA Today, Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital researcher Gary Smith blames the rise in battery-related injuries to the the 3-volt, 20-millimiter lithium battery, which, while more powerful, can also more rapidly damage the tissue. Although an ingested button battery will often end up in someone’s stool, if its negative pole comes into contact with tissue fluids in the esophagus while inside the body, a microcurrent may create hydroxide and this can lead to perforations and alkaline burns within two hours and potentially even aorta damage, which can be deadly. Often, by the time symptoms of battery injuries begin to reveal themselves–pain in the abdomen or vomiting–the ulcers, burns, or other internal damage has already happened. Even after the battery is removed from the body, this damage may continue to grow worse. Repairing injuries from a button battery might even require multiple surgical procedures.
Kids are not the only ones prone to battery injuries. Another group is elderly seniors. Some have been known to swallow button batteries found in hearing aids because they’ve mistakenly thought that they were pills.
In 2011, Sen. Jay Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va) unveiled a bill requiring that all products requiring button batteries be made childproof so that kids can’t get to them. While this has been a requirement in kids’ products since the 1980′s, there are many products for the general population that still don’t have this type of safety measure in place. Also, the CPSC is asking all major coin-cell and button battery makers to tackle the safety and injury issues involving button batteries and their products. (The federal agency has been warning about the dangers involving button batteries for years.)
CPSC Warns: As Button battery use increases, so do batter-related injuries and deaths, New Parent, July 31, 2012

Pediatric Battery-Related Emergency Department Visits in the United States, 1990-2009, Pediatrics, May 14, 2012
Button batteries are dangerous to kids, especially toddlers, and cause severe injuries when swallowed, Safe Kids

Many kids injured after swallowing button batteries, USA Today, May 30, 2012
Tiny Batteries Causing Big Health Problems for Kids, ABC News, August 30, 2012

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