By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
They are an omnipresent part of modern-day living.
Button batteries, also called coin or disc lithium batteries, are found in more than half of all Mexican homes, and are used to power up abroad array of daily use products that run the gamut from television remote controls and kid’s toys to bathroom scales and watches to fitness trackers and key fob finders.
But because of their small size and shiny colors, they are also a potential swallowing risk for young children.
In fact, according to the Mexican Pediatric Society, every year, at least four Mexican toddlers die from swallowing batteries, and as many as 500 end up in hospitals each year.
The number of cases in which Mexican children have been seriously hurt or died has more than quadrupled in the past five years compared to the five years prior, and in 2010 alone, there were more than 1,000 swallowing cases reported in the country.
The problem with most button batteries is their size, which is usually smaller than a one-peso coin.
But despite their small size, these batteries can be fatal if swallowed.
One of the dangers of swallowing a disc battery of that is that it can become lodged in the child’s esophagus.
But even it passes through the body’s windpipe, the electrical current it carries can break down water and produce hydroxide ions that can cause severe internal burns.
And even a 3V lithium battery that no longer contains enough charge to power a device can do serious harm to a child’s body.
Worse yet, since the symptoms are not always immediate, if parents do not know that their child has ingested a battery, the child might be misdiagnosed once symptoms begin to set in, delaying treatment and further endangering the victim.
Another major international battery producer has already begun using the bitter coating and it seems to be working.
Energizer, the makers of the world’s longest-lasting and best-performing alkaline batteries, has a long commitment to safety, and is determined to stop the apparent surge in disc battery swallowings by toddlers.
But in the end, it is up to all of us to make sure that our button batteries are not accessible to children, because bitter taste or not, kids are always going to find a way to outsmart our best efforts to protect them.
…March 24, 2021