The Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP - instruct the ACCC to regulate button battery standards to keep our children safe!

The Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP - instruct the ACCC to regulate button battery standards to keep our children safe!

We're calling on the The Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP as the Federal Minister responsible for the Australian Consumer Law to urgently regulate how button batteries are marketed and sold in Australia.

Button batteries are a common product in Australian homes. They are highly attractive to toddlers and have a tendency, if swallowed, present a serious risk to the health and safety of our children.

Currently only childrens toys for under 3 year olds with button batteries are required by law to have safety measures - this requirement needs to be extended to all products using button batteries.

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In 2013, Summer Steer lost her life after she swallowed a lithium button battery. As a community of mums & dads, we want to ensure other children do not suffer the same fate. That's why we're calling on the The Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP as the Federal Minister responsible for the Australian Consumer Law to urgently regulate how button batteries are marketed and sold in Australia.

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 [2] 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[3], 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 button battery powered products shall have a secure battery compartment (either a screw down battery compartment cover or the cover shall only be removed after the application of at least two independent movements that are applied separately   
  • Button batteries of up to 32mm diameter shall be sold in child-resistant packaging
  • For products supplied with a button battery, batteries shall be secured within the battery compartment and not loose in the product packaging
  • Products that use or contain button batteries are to have clear and concise warnings making the risk clear to consumers at point of purchase

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:

  • Avoiding unnecessary products that contain disc batteries
  • If you must buy a product that contains a button battery, select one with a robust, secure battery compartment
  • Make sure that the battery is already in the secure compartment (there should be a pull tab to activate) and not loose in the product packaging.
  • Raise this issue with retailers when you are shopping

 [1] Summer Steer: Queensland coroner calls for safer batteries after inquest into death of four-year-old - ABC Online

 

 [2] Toys for children up to and including 36 months of age - Product Safety Australia

 [3] Coronial Recommendation & Findings link