The Consumers’ Foundation yesterday urged parents to keep button-cell batteries out of children’s reach to avoid the serious health risks posed by accidentally swallowing the batteries.
Button-cell batteries are becoming more common in electric appliances, such as cameras, calculators, toys, alarm clocks, remote controllers and musical cards or decorations, but they could be dangerous to babies and children if they are not stored safely.
Foundation chairman Mark Chang (張智剛) said data collected over the past 13 years showed that there were more than 40,000 cases of children younger than 13 swallowing batteries in the US, while Japan averages about 200 cases a year and there have been cases in Taiwan as well.
Statistics collected by the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s branch in Linkou (林口), New Taipei City (新北市), in recent years showed that 121 people were hospitalized after accidentally swallowing strange items, and the average age in such cases was four, Chang said.
Foundation board member Hsiao Horng-ching (蕭弘清) said that button-cell batteries may be small, but the strongly alkaline chemicals in them can seriously damage the body if swallowed, including corrosion or burning of the throat, esophagus and stomach.
Unlike fruit seeds that easily pass through the human digestive system, button-cell batteries are heavier and tend to remain at the bottom of the stomach, making it difficult to eliminate them from the body, which could cause long-term damage, Hsiao said.
The foundation urged parents to ensure that batteries are stored out of children’s reach and to check if the batteries in consumer electronics can easily drop out if children play with them.
Parent should also teach their children not to eat or play with batteries, it said.
In addition, battery manufacturers should design packages that are difficult for children to open, ithe foundation said.
If parents discover batteries missing in their home and their children display symptoms such as fever, headache or silently staring with wide eyes, they should seek medical assistance as soon as possible, and not wait for the child to pass the batteries.