CDC warns parents to beware button batteries
August 30th, 2012
02:46 PM ET

CDC warns parents to beware button batteries

They are used to power everything from flashlights to remote controls. So called "button batteries," which are the size of coins (and sometimes smaller), have grown in popularity over the past few decades. Now, the Centers for Disease Control is warning parents to keep them away from children.

According to this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, approximately 40,400 children aged 12 and younger were treated in emergency rooms for battery-related injuries between 1997 and 2010 

But here's the bigger concern: 14 children, all of them under the age of 4, died after swallowing batteries. Twelve of the 14 deaths involved button batteries. In most cases, the batteries got stuck in the esophagus.  Experts say when that happens, or if the batteries make it down to the intestine, they can emit hydroxide which can cause chemical burns.

So what can parents do to keep their kids safe?  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission makes the following recommendations:

  • Get rid of button batteries carefully.
  • Don't allow children to play with them and keep them out of your child's reach.
  • Ask people who use hearing aids to keep the hearing aids and batteries out of the reach of children.
  • If an electronic device's battery compartment doesn't have a screw to secure it, use tape to help secure it.

The CPSC also is calling on the battery and electronics industry to develop warning labels and other ways to protect children.  In 2011, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) introduced a bill that would help protect kids from swallowing button batteries.  That bill is still awaiting committee action.

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Jack Skellington

    I am glad that my Fleshlight does not have one of those batteries. 😉

    August 31, 2012 at 00:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Herpy McDerpy

      You must have the basic model..

      September 4, 2012 at 16:52 | Report abuse |
  2. Magnet Lover

    So, these are ok, but buckyball magnets are not...

    August 31, 2012 at 00:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. anonymous

    Umm, not saying it's not sad, but 14 kids from 1997 to 2010. Do you know how many kids there are in America?! more kids die of remote controls being thrown across the room then this. Now that doesn't mean we shouldn't be careful, but more kids die of swallowing almost anything else. The batteries are not the issue, the issue is that kids put things in their mouths and choke. We would do better to educate people on how to help kids that are choking then to try to regulate the market on batteries. Like the "choking game" that the CDC made an issue of, until you realize that 7 kids died in a 10 year span from that. More kids in that same time period died of stubbing their toe while hopping on one foot and then fell onto something sharp. So we should all make sure kids have special shoes, right, so that they can't stub their toes and die. Oh and the number 3 cause of death of 3 year olds in 2009, homicide. http://www.cdc.gov/Injury/wisqars/pdf/10LCD-Age-Grp-US-2009-a.pdf

    August 31, 2012 at 01:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Eric

    Soooo, 14 children died over a 13 year period from swallowing batteries, or roughly 1 death a year. Your odds of being struck by lightning or being hit by a random bit of meteorite are infinitely higher than that. What's more, of those 14 deaths, most of them were caused by the button sized battery getting stuck in the esophagus. There are infinitely more actual "buttons" around that a child could choke on than there are "button sized batteries", so shouldn't the CDC be going CRAZY over REAL buttons if this is such a major issue!?! My god, buttons fall off of our clothes all the time, this is a national crisis and we need to DO something about it!

    Sheesh, there are a million ways you can die at any age, it's impossible to prevent everything. Do your best to keep your eyes on your children, and at very early ages try to avoid letting them get ahold of things small enough to swallow and choke on. Enough said.

    August 31, 2012 at 01:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. JC

    DUH! waist of bandwidth Jenifer Bixler should be fired!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 31, 2012 at 02:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Cab

    augh. What a let down. I thought this was going to tell us we could use them as drugs.

    August 31, 2012 at 02:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Nadrakas

    There's more random change in a Couch than there are batteries lying around the house. You'd think that the CDC would be more worried about kids swallowing pennies, nickles, dimes, or quarters...but no, they have to go make a mountain out of a mole-hill. "Sigh" - This is what happens when you get Bureaucrats involved in peoples lives.


    August 31, 2012 at 02:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Yes, I Am

    Little kids can't read nor understand warning labels.

    August 31, 2012 at 03:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Seriously?

    Next we're going to have a story on 3 people dying over 50 years due to choking by swallowing their iPads. This woman needs to get a real job. Why don't we find some real news, and get rid of the excess staff in this economy?

    August 31, 2012 at 03:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Take it seriously

    Of course a child could swallow a battery and many children are taught to stay away from them. But have you taught your children to stay away from these? They have caused deaths, but have also contributed to too many close calls. My friends daughter swallowed one of these batteries and because it's almost like a disc it stuck to her esophagus. It began to burn a hole on her esophagus before they could perform surgery. She was 6 years old. Take it seriously.

    August 31, 2012 at 03:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. lowdive9

    seriously? watch batteries, as they used to be called, have been around for a long time. i remember replacing them in my nintendo handheld donkey kong game as a kid. this article says more about the stupidity of parents than the hazards of batteries. as adults, we understand what is or is not safe for children to put in their mouths. as such, it falls to us to ensure these things are not within their reach.

    August 31, 2012 at 04:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. H1N!

    more kids die from saftey chair accidents more kids die using products that are actually made for kids ironic

    August 31, 2012 at 04:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Steven B.

    "Stupid babies need the most attention!"

    I want my buckyball magnets back, poor parents of America.

    August 31, 2012 at 05:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. bob

    One death a year is making the headlines? This is purely on the shoulders of the parent who did not dispose of the item properly. Just like the whole buckyball fiasco – it's a matter of idiot parents not doing their job.

    August 31, 2012 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Becky

    Not to beat a dead horse, but if swallowing/choking on "coin-size" batteries is such a great dangerous risk, what does that say about all the COINS laying around? Shouldn't we have warnings printed on the coins telling us to keep them out of the reach of children? Ditto real buttons, button-sized candies and mints, etc,. etc. C'mon, let's get REAL.

    August 31, 2012 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katherine

      unlike coins or buttons, batteries are like a tiny bomb waiting to go off once in the digestive tract. It can not be simply "passed" through. Yes, choking is always a concern for many small objects but batteries pose an extra threat if they make it to the stomach.

      September 9, 2012 at 08:47 | Report abuse |
    • Chokeritta

      For a 2004 Toyota Camry. The first Everstart battery did not make it a year. When they inaellstd a new replacement they peeled the year and month sticker off the old battery and stuck it on the one they were installing. They said I was only covered from my initial purchase and that they would not warranty the 2nd battery for another replacement period. I heard later that it was illegal to do that but I didn't have a clue at the time and I was stranded so they had me over a barrel anyways. The second Everstart lasted another couple of years and is now dying fast. I live in the Phoenix Metro area and the heat here does literally sucks batteries dry. However, I do know that I will not be replacing another battery at Walmart again and will probably go with one from Auto Zone.

      November 16, 2012 at 03:13 | Report abuse |
  16. Cynthia

    Many of the commenters have missed the important point - these batteries are more serious than coins BECAUSE they are batteries - and fairly powerful batteries. Beyond being a choking hazard, when they are swallowed they immediately create an electric current that can burn right through tissue. This can cause serious damage before the doctor has even figured out what is wrong. It's really pretty scary - esp considering how omnipresent they are, including in singing birthday cards. A singing birthday card could kill your child if you don't keep it safely out of their hands. There have also been cases of elderly people injured because they insert the battery alone into their ear, mistaking it for the hearing aid. Remember, for every tragic death there are thousands of scary injuries or surgeries as well.

    September 3, 2012 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Katherine

    Very close friend of mine has been battling with this very accident for years now. Her son swallowed a button battery and it has caused all sorts of life threatening problems needing numerous surgeries. They are very hazardous and need to be kept away from children the way we keep poisons and medication away from them. My heart goes out to any family dealing with such a tragedy and I hope some awareness will bring those statistics down!!!

    September 9, 2012 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
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