Button batteries

In Australia two children have died in the past six years after swallowing a button battery, and hundreds of children suspected of swallowing button batteries have ended up in hospital emergency rooms.

At least 64 children have died globally.

What are button batteries?

Button batteries, also known as coin cell batteries, are flat, round, single cell batteries, used in personal and common household products such as:

  • children’s toys
  • singing books and musical greeting cards
  • remote entry car keys
  • cameras
  • hearing aids
  • lights
  • watches
  • remote controls
  • digital thermometers and
  • bathroom scales.

Parents and carers should be aware of the risks posed by button batteries. These can cause life-threatening injuries if swallowed by a child.

Why are button batteries unsafe?

“If a child swallows a button battery it can get stuck in their oesophagus or elsewhere in their system, causing death or serious illness,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“Button batteries burn through soft tissue in as little as two hours and continue to pose a severe injury risk for children. It can be hard for doctors to identify the symptoms of battery button ingestion if the parent isn’t aware the child has swallowed one.”

If you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 immediately. Do not let the child eat or drink and do not induce vomiting.

Symptoms after swallowing a button battery

  • gagging or choking
  • drooling
  • chest pain - which may present as grunting
  • coughing or noisy breathing
  • unexplained vomiting or refusing to eat
  • bleeding from the gut resulting in black or red vomits and bowel motions
  • nose bleeds - sometimes this can be blood vomited through the nose
  • unexplained fever

These symptoms are similar to many other conditions and may not appear for some time, so it may not be suspected that a child has swallowed a battery.

Get involved - public consultation

The ACCC has released an issues paper for public consultation and is seeking feedback from stakeholders including consumers, retailers, manufacturers and health practitioners on a range of issues and options.

Following a number of paediatric injuries from button battery ingestion, in March 2019, acting on the ACCC’s recommendation, the then Assistant Treasurer, the Hon Stuart Robert, issued a Safety Warning Notice on the dangers of button batteries.

The ACCC will provide a Draft Recommendation to government by the end of 2019, with a Final Recommendation to be made in 2020.

The issues paper and information on the consultation process is available on the button batteries product page. Consultation closes on 30 September 2019.

Use the ACCC general enquiry online form if you need more information.

Home safety

Make sure the battery compartments are secure, batteries area kept out of reach of children and disposed of immediately once used.