I think parents can get a bit numb to
potentially fatal dangers lurking in our homes, because we're being constantly
bombarded with warnings about everything from food additives to car seat
We hear so many warnings so
often that sometimes real dangers don't get the attention they warrant. Case in point: button cell batteries. They're those tiny, round
silver batteries that you find in your watches and key fobs. You'll also find
button cell batteries in things like musical or light-up greetings cards,
flashing toy jewelry and remote control toys.
Button cell batteries have made a
few headlines lately. As their use has become more widespread, button cell batteries are causing more deaths in children. Yet they are not recognized by most parents
for being as dangerous as they really are.
One obvious danger of these batteries is that some
contain mercury or cadmium, which are highly toxic if ingested. A second danger
is that the size and shape of these batteries makes them a choking hazard for
small children who might mistake them for candy.
But perhaps the scariest of the button cell
dangers is also the least known. When button cell battery is swallowed, it can
create and electrical current in the child's esophagus. This causes sodium
hydroxide to build up in the airway and burn through the esophagus and into the
surrounding tissues and blood vessels, which can result in fatal bleeding. According to Central Manchester University Hospital Trust, many doctors are not even aware of the danger this poses.
All of this information hasn't stopped button
cells from being used in more and more products, many of which place the button
cell battery in an easy to access position, like a musical greeting card that
could be easily ripped open by a curious toddler.
If you suspect your child may have swallowed a button cell
battery, call the poison control hotline immediately. In most cases, an
emergency X-ray should be done to make sure the battery passes through the esophagus
and into the stomach.
Even if your child doesn't swallow the button
cell battery, it can cause chemical damage if placed in the nose or ears (and
anyone with a toddler knows how easy it is for things to end up in a nose).
In a sea of safety warnings and fear mongering
aimed at parents, button cell batteries are a danger not to be taken lightly. Increased awareness of the danger starts with parents taking the threat seriously
enough to take action—whether that means trying to eliminate button cell
batteries from your home completely or just being extra careful to store and
dispose of them more carefully.