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Florida parents: Awareness of button battery danger is crucial

As all Florida parents know, children's toys are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Electronic toys, like all of our electronic devices, are becoming smaller, thinner and easier for kids to put in their hands and mouths.

Many toys, gadgets and even things like musical greeting cards are powered by button batteries. These coin-size lithium batteries can be particularly attractive to little ones if they take an item apart and discover them. However, they are extremely harmful if ingested.

That's why it's essential for parents and caregivers to ensure that any non-toy items with these batteries remain out of reach. Any child who is playing with a toy or remote-control device that contains these batteries should be closely supervised. Parents often don't realize that they are in thermometers, keyless entry devices, hearing aids, watches and even flashing holiday jewelry and decorations, which can be particularly tempting to kids.

If a child swallows one of these batteries, an electrical current is triggered by saliva. The ensuing chemical reaction can burn the esophagus. A severe burn can occur within just a couple of hours. Surgery, sometimes more than one, may be required, and the child's windpipe and vocal cords may still be affected.

Moreover, children can swallow a battery and not immediately demonstrate any adverse effects from the burn. They may seem perfectly normal except for cold or flu-like symptoms.

Unfortunately, parents cannot rely on warning labels on products with these batteries to alert them to their presence. Over three years ago, Sen. Jay Rockefeller introduced the Button Cell Battery Safety Act of 2011. It would mandate the Consumer Product Safety Commission to "promulgate consumer product safety standards to require child-resistant closures on remote controls and other consumer products that use such batteries…." However, according to the website GovTrack.us, it did not make it out of committee.

When manufacturers, particularly those who make toys and other children's products, do not adequately warn consumers of the possible dangers inherent in their products, they can potentially be held liable -- just as they can be for defective products -- if a child is injured or worse. However, the best course for parents is to assume that if a toy or other object moves, makes noise, lights up or does anything on its own, it likely is powered by a battery. By being vigilant in watching your child around these objects, you can prevent tragic consequences.

Source: Safe Kids Worldwide, "Button Battery Safety Tips" Oct. 05, 2014

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