Researchers call for safety controls to prevent more tragedies from accidental swallowings
MONDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- The accidental swallowing of coin-sized lithium "button batteries" found in many common household products is a rapidly mounting threat to children, new research indicates.
In fact, a pair of new studies reveals that between 1985 and 2009 the risk that American children will experience a serious health complication after ingesting a button-battery has gone up nearly seven-fold.
"We're talking about a really profoundly devastating injury, and sometimes fatalities," said lead author for both studies Dr. Toby Litovitz, director of the National Capital Poison Center in Washington D.C. "But I think people are not aware of the problem, which is very, very much worse than swallowing a coin. And of course it's hard for parents to protect their kids when they don't realize that something is a problem."
"It's also clearly a worsening situation," she added. "From the late 1970's until now there have been 14 fatalities in the U.S. that we're aware of, and of those 10 were just in the last six years. So that should send a signal of warning."
Button batteries are found in remote controls, singing greeting cards, thermometers, DVD players and many other products to which children have ready access.
Litovitz explained that standard 20 millimeter lithium button batteries are thicker than a nickel and somewhere between a penny and a nickel in diameter. The batteries, she noted, have become very popular in recent years. Whereas in 1990 about 1 percent of all small 20 millimeter-sized batteries were lithium coin cells, now that figure has risen to about 18 percent to 20 percent.
The reason? "They are remarkable batteries," said Litovitz. "They can pack in three volts, have a long shelf life, and they have more cold tolerance so they can be used in outdoor products. So they're grea
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