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Small 'Button Batteries' Pose Big Risks For Kids

Button batteries like these can pose a risk to kids who swallow them.
Button batteries like these can pose a risk to kids who swallow them.

Chances are you have a bunch of gizmos at home that contain button batteries, those sleek coin-size power sources that pack an electronic punch.

Batteries like these can keep your TV remote or a child's toy up and running for months. And with more gizmos, there are more of these batteries kicking around.

The ready supply of batteries poses a safety risk, it turns out.

Small children can get hurt messing with them. A swallowed button battery can cause choking, severe burns and, sometimes, death.

So how often do children get hurt by batteries?

An estimated 40,400 kids under 13 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for battery-related injuries from 1997 to 2010, according to an analysis just out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The findings appear in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Three-quarters of injuries happened in kids 4 and under. Among the cases where the battery type was known, button batteries were involved in 58 percent.

A previous study found that remote controls were the most common source for button batteries that got swallowed.

Problems are on the rise, as this graph shows.

Estimated yearly visits to emergency rooms for treatment of battery injuries to kids under 13.
/ CDC
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Estimated yearly visits to emergency rooms for treatment of battery injuries to kids under 13.

Keep remotes and other battery-powered devices away from young kids, unless the battery compartment is secure. And be aware that small children may be unable or unwilling to say they've swallowed a battery or given one to a brother or sister. For more, try the CPSC's safety quiz.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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