27 September 2023

Taskforce charges up battery probe

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has established a special taskforce to investigate ways to reduce risk to the Australian community, particularly children, of button batteries.

Deputy Chair of the ACCC, Delia Rickard said that in Australia two children had died in the past six years after swallowing a button battery, and hundreds of children suspected of swallowing button batteries had ended up in hospital emergency rooms.

At least 64 children had died globally.

“Button batteries, also known as coin cell batteries, are flat, round, single cell batteries used in personal and household products such as; children’s toys, hearing aids, lights, watches, remote controls, digital thermometers and bathroom scales,” Ms Rickard said.

“If a child swallows a button battery it can get stuck in their oesophagus or elsewhere in their system, causing death or serious illness.”

She said the batteries burned through soft tissue in as little as two hours and continued to pose a severe injury risk for children.

“It can be hard for doctors to identify the symptoms of battery button ingestion if the parent isn’t aware the child has swallowed one,” Ms Rickard said.

“This new Button Battery Taskforce will consider what regulatory options could be introduced to improve the safety of both button batteries and consumer products that contain them.”

The ACCC has released an issues paper for public consultation and is seeking feedback from stakeholders including consumers, retailers, manufacturers and health practitioners on a range of issues and options.

The ACCC’s 58-page issues paper can be accessed at this PS News link.

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