Kidsafe Qld launches button battery awareness campaign

21 December 2015

About four children a week are presenting to Queensland emergency departments with a button battery-related injury, but a new State Government-funded initiative is aiming to drive down these numbers.

Kidsafe Qld CEO Susan Teerds today announced a button battery awareness campaign to run in early 2016.

The campaign will be funded by $66,000 from the Queensland Government and is designed to improve awareness of the dangers of children ingesting small, coin-sized button batteries.

“This Christmas, children everywhere will be unwrapping gifts likely to include button batteries surrounded by family who could be completely unaware of the potential danger these tiny, shiny pieces pose to them,” she said.

“Hundreds of Queensland children wound up in hospital last year from exposure to button batteries, and that is almost double the number from the year before.

“Funding this campaign is a commendable step from the government and will help Queensland develop a whole-of-community approach to tackling this growing issue.”

Professor Tony Catto-Smith, Queensland Children’s Hospital Director of Gastroenterology, said button batteries are a growing problem, with many parents unaware of the danger of the batteries if swallowed.

“If a battery is swallowed and becomes stuck in the oesophagus it can rapidly burn through the wall and cause very serious injury,” he said.

“Any device with small batteries is potentially lethal if a child can get at the battery. Loose batteries in particular must be kept in a secure, safe place and away from children.”

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick said the campaign would be designed to achieve a high level of awareness among both the community and health professionals.

“There is clearly need for a strong community message to help prevent more children from ending up in our emergency departments facing unimaginable injuries,” he said.

“Button battery cases are ticking time bombs that cause more damage by the minute.

“They can require days to weeks in hospital and sometimes years of ongoing management and corrective surgery without urgent treatment.

“But the less awareness among clinicians there is about the dangers of these batteries, the longer it takes to diagnose and treat associated injuries, which is why we need to act now to spread the word.”

The campaign acts on a recommendation from the Coroner after the recent coronial inquest into the death of Sunshine Coast four-year-old Summer Steer, who died in 2013 after swallowing a button-sized lithium battery.

Summer’s mother, Andrea Shoesmith, said the initiative would help better inform Queensland families of the silent but deadly impact of button battery ingestion.

“What happened to our family can happen to anyone at any time,” she said.

“This campaign represents a crucial investment in growing awareness so families can take what precautions they can to lessen the risk for their children.

“If this campaign can prevent even one family suffering tragedy like ours has, then it will have done its job.”

Ms Teerds said it was a community responsibility to safely store and dispose of button batteries – which are found in toys, promotional items, television remotes and even electronic tea light candles – and one that should be regarded seriously.

“A battery that no longer has enough power to open your garage door or even play the jingle in the birthday card it came from still has the capacity to kill if found and swallowed, so it is essential we develop awareness to prevent tragedy from striking more families,” she said.

If you suspect your child has swallowed a button battery, go immediately to your nearest hospital emergency department or call 000.

View Kidsafe fact sheet.

Media contact: Damian Pointon 0403 384 442