Consumer advocates are calling for tougher regulations on button batteries to protect children who might end up swallowing them.

In Australia, two children have died when they accidentally swallowed the small round batteries.

Choice, a consumer group in Australia, has teamed with The Parenthood and Kidsafe Queensland. They are urging the Federal Government to come up with sterner safety standards for all consumer products that come with button batteries, such as bathroom scales and kiddie toys.

According to Tom Godfrey, the spokesman for Choice, as part of stricter measures, all button battery-powered products should come with a screwed-on compartment to keep the battery in place and prevent it from falling out.

"We'd also like to see the button batteries sold in child-proof packaging. In Australia at the moment button batteries aren't required to be sold in child-proof packaging," added Godfrey who added that these dangerous products are easily accessible to small children.

Currently, only the toys meant for children below three years of age come with secure compartments for button batteries. This suggests that a great number of everyday button battery-powered items still pose dangers to children across Australia due to the lack of mandatory requirements.

According to Dr. John Curotta from The Children's Hospital at Westmead, the symptoms of button battery ingestion are similar to the symptoms of other medical conditions. These include difficulty in swallowing and sore throat. This suggests that many people end up not getting the emergency treatment needed.

"It gets stuck somewhere between your voice box and your stomach. The saliva sits around the battery and, even if the battery is no longer usable, it still has a lot of residual charge," said Curotta who added that the lethal damage can take place in just a few hours.

Curotta stressed that it's not just the toys carrying button batteries that are the problem. Other items around the house can also be powered by these small batteries.

If a child accidentally swallows one, go to a hospital emergency room immediately. It is vital that parents do not try to make the child spit out the battery by vomiting. Moreover, do not let the child drink or eat before taking the young victim to the hospital.

Photo: James Bowe | Flickr

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