Children Swallowing Lithium Button Cell Batteries

What: child swallowed lithium battery | fatal injury
Who: 3500 cases of children annually

There are close to 3,500 cases of children swallowing lithium button cell batteries, annually. These small, coin size batteries are found in many household items including, remote controls, calculators and even greeting cards.

Data from the National Capital Poison Center shows a sevenfold increase in severe complications from button cell ingestions in recent years. Serious complications from the chemical reaction triggered by the batteries can damage vocal cords, leaving children with a lifelong whisper in addition to damage to the gastrointestinal tract which could require feeding tubes and multiple surgeries.

Studies indicate the battery begins to cause severe damage within just two hours of ingestion. A 13 month old toddler from Ohio is a tragic example.

The toddler underwent tests and x-rays after what doctor initially thought was a week-long bout with a virus. What they found later though, was he had swallowed a button battery. Surgery was performed the following day and the battery removed… but the damage had been done. The battery’s current attacked the child’s esophagus and aorta. Soon afterward, he died from injuries.

Federal safety regulations mandate batteries that power toys must have battery compartments that are locked with screws. But in 60% of the cases involving children under age six, the child has taken the battery out of an electronic device such as a remote control. These devices intended for adults often hold batteries with just a simple snap on cover.

Parents should know the batteries which pose the greatest threat to children are those that begin with the number 20. Batteries numbered 2032, 2025 and 2016 are responsible for more than 90% of serious injuries to children.

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