CHOICE reveals 10 out of 17 household items failed button battery tests

Do you realise just how many of these dangerous products are in your home?

Button batteries pose a great danger to children under 5, with around 20 kids admitted to Australian emergency departments each week after swallowing them.

Australia's leading consumer advocacy group, CHOICE have revealed a whopping 10 out of 17 button battery-powered household items failed safety tests due to the potentially deadly batteries being easily accessible.

Children have died after ingesting button batteries and many more have been seriously injured in Australia in recent years.

child tasting a remote control to check if it's as good as she thought

Children often put things into their mouths. Image: iStock.

Hidden dangers

Button batteries are dangerous, particularly to young children, who often put things into their mouths.

If ingested, a button battery can lodge in a child’s gastrointestinal tract. Once the metal comes into contact with saliva, an electrical current is triggered, causing a chemical reaction. This can burn through a child's internal organs, potentially causing life-threatening damage to the lungs, heart, arteries and spine, and sometimes even resulting in death.

While there are regulations for button batteries in children's products, the small, coin-sized batteries can be found in many household items without being properly secured or protected from young children. Items such as thermometers, book lights and remote controls can contain button batteries, and are only covered by a voluntary code, which some manufacturers are ignoring.

"What’s a good investment? Go home from work early and spend the afternoon throwing a ball around with your son." - Ben Stein on CNN

Image: CHOICE.

Button was not secured and easily accessed by testers. Image: CHOICE.

About testing

The CHOICE tests involved drop tests on compliant items and looked at whether safety warnings were featured on the products. Testers also checked to see if the batteries were secured in a screw compartment, whether a tool was required to remove the battery, and tested the degree of force that was needed to remove the battery without the use of a tool.

"While toys for children under three are legally required to have secure battery compartments, many everyday household items do not," said CHOICE Head of Policy and Campaigns, Sarah Agar.

"Industry is aware of this significant safety issue," said Agar. "There is a voluntary code that requires manufacturers to make the batteries secure, but our test results show it is being ignored by some major brands sold in big retail outlets like Priceline, Dymocks, David Jones and JB Hi-Fi.

"We believe the Australian government should make it illegal to sell unsafe products, which would see companies face large fines for flooding the Australian market with unsafe junk and would go along way to curbing the risks associated with unsecured button batteries and other inherently unsafe products."

"You know your children are growing up when they stop asking you where they came from and refuse to tell you where they’re going." - P. J. O’Rourke

CHOICE is calling for an overhaul of product safety laws as part of World Consumer Rights day.

Safety tips:

  • If you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery, immediately call the Poisons InformationCentre on 13 11 26 or go to a hospital emergency room.
  • Do not let the child eat or drink, and do notinduce vomiting.
  • Keep all button battery operated devices out of sight and out of reach of children.
  • Examine devices and make sure the battery compartment is secure.
  • Dispose of used button batteries immediately
  • Flat batteries can still be dangerous.
  • Tell others about the risk associated with button batteries, and how to keep their children safe.