Lithium button batteries are a growing source of injuries to children.
Lithium button batteries are a growing source of injuries to children. iStockphoto.com
Look around the house, and it's hard not to find some electronic toy, gizmo or remote control on just about every flat surface.
The problem is that kids can also find them, too, and the curious ones may end up swallowing the batteries inside. Slim round button batteries are a particular problem and account for a growing number of serious injuries and deaths.
Researchers analyzed thousands of reports of swallowed batteries collected over nearly two decades and found that 20 millimeter lithium button cells (about the size of a nickel) posed the greatest hazard.
A database of more than 8,600 reports to a national battery hotline since 1990 showed that 94 percent of ingestion incidents involved button batteries.
In just a few hours current from 20 millimeter batteries can cause serious tissue damage in the throat, if the batteries become stuck there. In the last 10 years, 13 deaths related to swallowed batteries have been reported, the researchers say. Twelve of those were due to 20 millimeter lithium cells.
The results were just published online by the medical journal Pediatrics.
Most of the batteries swallowed by kids came from inside electronic products — and not just toys. Remote controls were the most common single source.
The researchers recommend that manufacturers design their products to require a tool to open battery compartments. The compartments should also be sturdy enough not to pop open, if the products are dropped.