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Coin-Size Battery-Related Injuries and Deaths on the Rise | Daytona Beach Child Injury Attorney

Coin-Size Battery-Related Injuries and Deaths on the Rise

The accidental swallowing of coin-sized lithium batteries has become a mounting threat to children and senior adults, according to a new study.

The study conducted by Dr. Toby Litovitz of the National Capital Poison Center, found that button battery-related incidents resulting in severe injury and fatality have increased sevenfold since 1985.

The majority of reported incidents involve 20 mm diameter, or larger, 3 volt batteries, which are found in products in nearly every home in America. Occasionally, a swallowed battery will pass through the intestine. Most often, however, batteries that become lodged in the throat or intestine can generate and release hydroxide, resulting in dangerous chemical burns.

“We’re talking about a really profoundly devastating injury, and sometimes fatalities,” Dr. Litovitz said in a news release. “But I think people are not aware of the problem, which is very, very much worse than swallowing a coin. And of course it’s hard for parents to protect their kids when they don’t realize that something is a problem.”

Button batteries are found in remote controls, singing greeting cards, thermometers, DVD players and many other products to which children have ready access.

“From the late 1970’s until now there have been 14 fatalities in the U.S. that we’re aware of, and of those 10 were just in the last six years,” Litovitz said. “So that should send a signal of warning.”

Incidents most often involve children younger than four years old and senior adults. In the majority of incidents, children gain access to batteries directly from games, toys, calculators, remote controls and other items commonly left within a child’s reach.

Senior adults have swallowed button batteries used in hearing aids after mistaking them for pills.

Parents often are unaware that a child has swallowed the button battery, which makes it difficult to diagnose the problem. In fact, in the recent study, more than 60 percent of reported incidents initially were misdiagnosed. Symptoms resemble ailments common in children, such as an upset stomach and fever, and in some incidents, there are no symptoms at all.

Typically pediatric ingestion results in the battery getting lodged in the esophagus, the authors noted, rather than in air passages. So the risk is primarily not a question of choking, but rather one of a potentially fatal alkaline burn. The burns from lithium button batteries result not from battery leakage, but to exposure of body tissues to the battery’s external current, resulting in hydroxide that can burn through the throat or esophagus.

To prevent serious injury or death, researchers say a swallowed battery has to be removed from the child’s esophagus within two hours of swallowing.

“These incidents are preventable and CPSC is working to get ahead of this emerging hazard quickly,” said Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “Our consumer awareness efforts and outreach to the electronics industry are under way.”

CPSC has reached out to the electronics industry and battery manufacturers, urging them to develop warnings and industry standards to address this issue.

CPSC recommends the following steps to prevent unintentional battery ingestion:

  • Discard button batteries carefully.
  • Do not allow children to play with button batteries, and keep button batteries out of your child’s reach.
  • Caution hearing aid users to keep hearing aids and batteries out of the reach of children.
  • Never put button batteries in your mouth for any reason as they are easily swallowed accidentally.
  • Always check medications before ingesting them. Adults have swallowed button batteries mistaken for pills or tablets.
  • Keep remotes and other electronics out of your child’s reach if the battery compartments do not have a screw to secure them. Use tape to help secure the battery compartment.
  • If a button battery is ingested, immediately seek medical attention. The National Battery Ingestion Hotline is available anytime at (202) 625-3333 (call collect if necessary), or call your poison center at (800) 222-1222.

For more on child safety issues, see the library of articles by Daytona Beach child injury attorney.



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