Coin-size batteries pose child safety concern

Recent data shows a large increase in the number of children who have been seriously hurt or have died as the result of swallowing coin-size lithium batteries. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the number of cases has more than quadrupled from 2006–2010 compared to the previous four-year period. In 2010, more than 3,500 cases were reported to U.S. poison control centers.

Most cases are associated with 20mm diameter batteries, about the size of a nickel, because they can easily get stuck in a child’s throat. When a coin-sized lithium battery gets stuck in a child’s throat, the saliva triggers an electrical current and a resulting chemical reaction that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours. Once the burning reaction begins, it can continue after the battery has been removed.

“Coin-sized lithium batteries are increasingly common and can be found in watches, toys, remote controls, bathroom scales and singing greeting cards, among a long, long list of others,” said Gloria Sorem, public health nurse with Sherburne County Health and Human Services.

Most of the batteries swallowed by children have been from remote controls.

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