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Streetwise Spring Edition 2019

The dangers of button cell batteries

 Increasingly toys, games and remote controlls contain button cell batteries. These to a child can look like sweets however, the concequences of swallowing a button battery are alarming.

Although a child may not choke, if undetected the batteries can do serious damage if swallowed. When combined with saliva, the electrical current from the battery produces caustic soda that burns through the throat or stomach and can cause severe damage to tissues and internal organs.

The 'button battery experiment' simulates what can happen by placing a battery on a slice of ham. Within a short time the ham begins to blacken as the battery reacts and causes burns.

How many cases have there been?

It is unclear how many cases there have been in the UK, but according to the National Capitol Poison Centre in the USA, there are around 3,500 incidents reported every year where swallowed batteries require urgent treatment. The Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit in Australia also estimates that four children a week are admitted to hospital after swallowing batteries.

How can I protect my child?


• Make sure that toys and other small electronic devices, have lockable battery compartments.

• Be extra vigilant with items including musical greeting cards, flameless candles and remote controls as they do not have lockable compartments. Children should not have access to these products if the battery compartment is not secure.

• Ensure that spare batteries are locked away, and used batteries are disposed of correctly.


• If a child swallows a button battery or gets one stuck in their nose or ear, take them straight to the nearest A&E department as soon as possible.

• Don’t “wait and see” - you don’t have the luxury of time being on your side – in fact, time is very much against you.

• Don’t be afraid to call an ambulance – it could save their life. Dial 999, not 111.


• Do not let them eat or drink anything and do not try to make them sick.


Tell your friends and family about the dangers of button cell batteries so people know what to do if the worst does happen.

To find out more please visit www.rospa.com