Button batteries (also known as disc or coin batteries) are a common product in Australian homes. They power a small number of essential items (e.g. hearing aids), a large number of everyday items (e.g. car keys, remotes) and an even larger number of cheap novelty items. They appear harmless, but if swallowed can silently kill.
They are highly attractive to toddlers and have a tendency, if swallowed, to lodge in the child's food pipe (oesophagous). Batteries with sufficient charge then break down water to produce a caustic chemical (sodium hydroxide) that literally eats a hole through the oesophagous and into nearby organs. If parents see their child swallow a battery or notice that a battery is missing, urgent diagnosis and treatment can save the child's life. However, as in Summer’s case a child can swallow a battery and have no obvious symptoms until it is too late(1) .
At present, only toys designed for children under 3 years of age  are required by law to have secured battery compartments to ensure small children can’t access the batteries. Some companies elect to manufacture secure battery compartments (e.g. most car keys). While many suppliers will voluntarily make their products safer many won’t unless they are compelled to so by law. Button batteries are not required to be sold in child-resistant packaging. Manufacturers are not required to put warning labels on their products.
In line with the recent Coronial recommendations, we are calling on The Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP to urgently instruct the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, as the national product safety regulator, to develop a regulation or a mandatory safety standard that requires at least the following:
All products whether manufactured in Australia or imported into the country should meet this regulation to ensure there are no more deaths like Summer's.
Until then, show Australian retailers that our kids are worth protecting by: