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Lethal button batteries get safety code

AAP logoAAP 18/09/2016

New safety measures are being introduced for potentially fatal button batteries to stop young children from swallowing them.

Developed by a cross-section of businesses, a voluntary code has been drawn up to improve the safety of electronic toys and other goods, including watches and cameras, that are powered by the shiny, coin-sized lithium batteries.

The code was developed in response to the alarming number of small children who are injured or killed after swallowing the batteries, which can get stuck in the throat and cause severe internal burns.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is urging retailers and other businesses to adopt the voluntary code, which includes design guidelines for electronic goods to make sure batteries can't be accessed by young children.

ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said 20 children are taken to Australian hospital emergency rooms each week because of button batteries, which are often mistaken for lollies.

"Children under the age of five are at the greatest risk," she said in a statement on Monday.

"If they get their hands on one of the many products in the home that contain button batteries they can get the batteries out unless the compartments containing the batteries are secured.

"This new code is an important step towards ensuring children cannot access the batteries, thereby reducing the risk that they will swallow them."

The code comes amid growing concerns about the number of children inadvertently coming into contact with the tiny batteries.

A Queensland coroner in 2015 recommended small batteries be plastic coated following an inquest into the death of four-year-old Sunshine Coast girl Summer Steer, who swallowed a 2cm lithium battery in 2013.

The code sets out several safety measures, including design guidelines for electronic goods to make sure batteries can't be accessed by young children.

The code recommends battery compartments be secured by a screw or bolt that requires a tool to open it, or the compartment requires two or more independent and simultaneous actions to remove its cover.

It also urges retailers to consider whether to sell goods containing button batteries, and if they do, to make sure goods comply with the new safety requirements and warn shoppers about the potential hazards to children.

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