Taskforce will investigate stronger button battery safety

Button batteries, also known as coin cell batteries, often found in children's toys, are potentially lethal if swallowed.

Button batteries, also known as coin cell batteries, often found in children's toys, are potentially lethal if swallowed.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has established a Button Battery Taskforce to investigate ways to reduce risk to the Australian community, particularly children, of 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.

Button batteries, also known as coin cell batteries, are flat, round, single cell batteries, used in personal and household products such as children's toys, hearing aids, lights, watches, remote controls, digital thermometers and bathroom scales.

"If a child swallows a button battery it can get stuck in their oesophagus or elsewhere in their system, causing death or serious illness," 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."

The new Button Battery Taskforce will consider what regulatory options could be introduced to improve the safety of both button batteries and consumer products that contain them.

The ACCC this week released a 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 be providing 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 Product Safety Australia website. Consultation will close on September 30, 2019.

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