The ACCC is urging businesses who supply button batteries, or products that are powered by them, to ensure they are complying with the new button battery safety standards ahead of the laws becoming mandatory on 22 June. The ACCC is also calling on consumers to check for unsafe button battery products in their homes.
Under the mandatory safety and information standards, products must have secure battery compartments to prevent children from gaining access to the batteries. Manufacturers must undertake compliance testing, supply batteries in child-resistant packaging, and place additional warnings and emergency advice on packaging and instructions.
Three children have died and 44 have been severely injured in Australia from incidents involving button batteries, and more than one child a month is seriously injured as a result of ingesting or inserting the batteries, which are contained in millions of consumer goods worldwide.
“These world-first mandatory standards for button batteries are an important step in helping to prevent injuries to children. Time is running out for manufacturers and suppliers to ensure their products are compliant,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“Once the standards become mandatory the ACCC will focus on enforcement action.”
Penalties may apply for businesses that supply button batteries, or products containing them, that do not comply with the mandatory standards.
The standards were introduced in December 2020 with an 18 month transition period to allow businesses time to prepare. During the transition period the ACCC has worked with industry to explain the changes required.
“We are pleased that some suppliers have acted early by conducting recalls to remove unsafe products containing button batteries from the market,” Ms Rickard said.
“Button batteries are found in a large number of common household items such as toys, remote controls, watches, digital kitchen scales and thermometers. If swallowed they can cause serious injuries to children, and we encourage consumers to check the list of recalled products on the Product Safety website.”
“The compartment holding the button battery needs to be secure and child resistant, and if it isn’t, parents or carers should stop using the product immediately and keep it out of reach from children,” Ms Rickard said.
If swallowed, a button battery can get stuck in a child’s throat and cause a chemical reaction that burns through tissue, causing death or serious injury within a short amount of time.
“Keep new and used button batteries out of sight and out of reach of small children at all times,” Ms Rickard said
“As soon as you have finished using a button battery, put sticky tape around both sides of the battery and dispose of it immediately in an outside bin, out of reach of children, or recycle safely.”
Consumers are encouraged to report unsafe products through the Product Safety Australia website.
Mandatory safety standards specify minimum requirements such as performance, design, construction, finish, and packaging or labelling that products must meet before they can be supplied in Australia. Mandatory information standards provide consumers with important information about a product to assist them in making a purchasing decision. Information standards do not necessarily relate to the safety aspects of a product.
Last year the ACCC published a fact sheet and guide for business on the button battery mandatory standard.
When ingested or inserted, button batteries can cause serious injury within two hours or death within days. When lodged in the body and in contact with bodily fluid, button batteries can burn through tissue and cause catastrophic bleeding.
Symptoms may include gagging or choking, drooling, chest pain (grunting), coughing or noisy breathing, food refusal, black or red bowel motions, nose bleeds, spitting blood or blood-stained saliva, unexplained vomiting, fever, abdominal pain or general discomfort.
Children are often unable to effectively communicate that they have swallowed or inserted a button battery and may have no symptoms. If you suspect a child has swallowed or inserted a button battery, you should ask for an x-ray from a hospital emergency department to make sure.
If you think a child has swallowed or inserted a button battery, contact the 24/7 Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for fast, expert advice. Prompt action is critical, do not wait for symptoms to develop.