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The Tiny Lethal Danger All Over Your House

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 recalls.

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.

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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).

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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.

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Image via en.wikipedia.org

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