Rockefeller Bill Will Help Prevent Kids From Swallowing Hazardous Mini Batteries

June 9, 2011

Chairman Rockefeller asks Sec. Locke questions about strengthening manufacturing in America.WASHINGTON, D.C.—Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV today introduced a bill to reduce the risk of injury or death to children from ingestion of button cell batteries. This common-sense bill would make it harder for children to access these tiny batteries by making battery compartments in consumer products more secure.

“These tiny batteries are just the sort of thing a curious child might swallow. And the damage can be irreparable,” said Chairman Rockefeller. “We need to make sure that these batteries are securely enclosed in products and can’t be removed by children, and we must also make sure that parents and caretakers are aware of the danger. We have the ability to better protect children and it’s our responsibility to do so.”

Button cell batteries are small and round, and are approximately the size and shape of common coins. They are found in everyday consumer products, such as remote controls, watches, calculators, hand-held video game devices, and a wide range of toys. When swallowed by small children, they often become lodged in the esophagus or digestive tract and can cause severe burns or even death.

According to the National Poison Data System, more than 3,400 button battery ingestion cases were reported to U.S. poison centers in each year between 2007 and 2010, resulting in hundreds of injuries and six deaths. While the number of ingestions per year has remained relatively constant, the number of ingestions that result in serious injury or death have increased sevenfold since 1985 due to the higher voltage of new batteries. 

The Button Cell Battery Safety Act of 2011 would call on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to establish two sets of standards for products containing button cell batteries:

  • A standard for securing button cell battery compartments of consumer products so that small children cannot gain access to the batteries; and 
  • Standards for warning labels with the dangers of ingesting button cell batteries to be placed on battery packaging, any literature that is included with a battery-operated product, and where feasible, on the product itself. 

In a May letter, Consumers Union applauded Chairman Rockefeller’s leadership on his work to write legislation to help eliminate the risk button cell batteries pose to children. A copy of the letter can be found below.