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Lithium Button Batteries Pose Hazard To Children

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Tiny lithium button batteries pose hidden dangers and dangerous health hazards to children. The ubiquitous button batteries can be found in many consumer products, even children’ toys.

In one report discussed by ABC News, a three-year-old boy swallowed a small, lithium battery that was only discovered after he fell ill and an X-ray revealed what, at first, appeared to be a button. Surgery revealed that the boy swallowed a battery that led to severe esophageal damage, causing the boy to be fed by tube for several months.

Sadly, emerging research published in the journal Pediatrics, suggests that this sort of problem is growing in frequency, with the number of emergency department visits to hospitals over children ingesting batteries rising, said ABC News. In the past two decades, more than 65,000 emergency department visits were made because of children who ingested batteries. For the most part, said ABC News, button batteries were involved.

With improved technology, devices shrinking in size, and the development of more advanced children’s toys, the use of button lithium batteries is becoming increasingly popular. Children are attracted to the batteries because they are small, shiny, and resemble candy, noted ABC News.

Dr. Ian Jacobs, associate professor of ear, nose and throat at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and one of the doctors who cared for the boy who suffered esophageal damage, told ABC News said that when a lithium battery remains lodged in the esophagus for more than two hours, the battery can erode through the soft tissue of the esophagus, leading to a life-threatening hole.

NewsInferno noted that, upon occasion, a swallowed battery will pass through the intestine; however, the batteries, more often than not, become lodged in the throat or intestine, generating and releasing hydroxide and causing dangerous chemical burns. Surviving children may suffer permanent vocal cord paralysis, rendering them mute, as well as burns in the cartilage of the nose or inner ear, leading to hearing loss and respiratory problems, said ABC News.

Dr. Toby Litovitz, executive and medical director of the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C., is an expert on button battery ingestions, maintaining a national database on these and other incidents. Litovitz found that, in a separate study conducted from 1985 to 2009, a nearly seven-fold increase in the number of button battery ingestions with major of deadly results was seen, said ABC News. As NewsInferno previously noted, the majority of reported incidents in this study involved 20-mm diameter or, larger, 3-volt batteries.

Litovitz recommends that parents “be vigilant and look at every product at home to see if it has a battery compartment that can be opened by the child and [if so, make sure it is] secured with heavy tape. If not, it needs to be treated like a medication—up high, out of reach, and locked up,” said ABC News. Most ingestions are not witnessed, but should a battery ingestion be suspected, the child should be immediately brought to the nearest emergency department, especially if the child is lethargic, drooling, having difficulty swallowing, or vomiting. Jacobs and Litovitz both stress that if children are not taken to the operating room within two hours, the results could be fatal.

As NewsInferno has noted, according to the National Capital Poison Center, over 3,000 people swallow button batteries annually; most are young children or seniors.

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