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Mother Joins Calls For Stricter Safety Standards Over Button Batteries

They have been the cause of two child deaths in Australia.

31/05/2016 8:00 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
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They are small, inexpensive and lightweight. And they are increasingly being used in an array of everyday household items -- from TV remotes to musical birthday cards.

But button batteries are also the cause of about 20 presentations to emergency departments across the country each week -- and, sadly, have resulted in two deaths in Australia: in 2013 and 2015.

Allison Rees lost her 14-month-old daughter Isabella after a 10 cent coin-sized button battery lodged in her oesophagus.

"These batteries are fatal."

"Unfortunately, we weren't aware that Isabella had swallowed a battery until after she had passed away," Rees told The Project on Tuesday night.

And symptoms can easily be missed. Rees took her daughter to hospital several times and yet nothing was picked up. Later, she suffered internal burns and cardiac arrest.

"The problem is it presents similar flu or virus symptoms. She was vomiting, very lethargic and she had a high fever. Finally, she was vomiting blood. That's when it was too late."

Rees is backing a campaign set up by consumer group Choice, The Parenthood and Kidsafe Queensland who are calling on the federal government to introduce mandatory child-proof packaging and safer product design.

Under current laws, toy design for children under 3 years of age requires secure, screw-down battery compartments. But no such standards exist for other household items that are increasingly being manufactured using lithium button batteries.

"There are household products and everyday items that should be covered under a mandatory standard," Choice Australia's Tom Godfrey said on The Project.

"We are sick of hearing about national strategies. What we need is national action. It is time the government locks down button batteries in Australia and keeps them out of the hands of our children."

For Rees, public awareness is the first step.

"Then we need to start taking action against manufacturing companies and battery companies. Product warnings and packaging needs to be improved," she said on Tuesday night.

"These batteries are fatal."

If you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery, call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or go to a hospital emergency room.

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