Button batteries are widely used in musical greeting cards, toys, remote controls, and key fobs. If they are swallowed or placed in a child’s nose or ears, they can quickly burn through tissue causing serious injury leading to possible death.
They’ve been identified as a high-risk product by MBIE, especially for the harm they can cause to children and their families.
Ian Caplin from MBIE's Consumer Protection team says people need to be especially mindful of the dangers these button batteries can pose when they are purchasing presents and decorations this time of year.
“The National Poisons Centre receives on average 41 calls a year related to button batteries being swallowed or stuck in ears or nose (between 2019-21)”.
Children under five are particularly vulnerable, says Ian.
"Knowing if button batteries are in your home and knowing where they are is incredibly important. Not only could they be in gifts tamariki may get at Christmas, but also in everyday items like key fobs, or kitchen scales or hearing aids."
“Over 60% of the incidents involving button batteries coming loose from inside these sort of items, with a further 29% coming from batteries that weren’t disposed of or stored safely.”
MBIE is encouraging New Zealanders to check and see where button batteries are in their home.
If you can, change the products that have these batteries to ones that use other types of batteries, says Ian.
"For those products you can’t change, make sure the battery compartment cannot be opened by a young child or when dropped."
“When you change the batteries, make sure the used ones are disposed of somewhere out of reach of children, and any spare ones are kept secure and away from children.”
“And finally, when Christmas is all over and you’re packing up the decorations for another year, take a quick look to see if there aren’t any tiny button batteries left behind in amongst all the left over pine needles.”
The Product Safety website contains up to date information about button battery safety.
Button batteries(external link) – productsafety.govt.nz