Button battery laws introduced after Australian mums campaign

A Melbourne mum who fought to change national laws after her one-year-old daughter died after ingesting a button battery is celebrating a huge victory.

New laws aimed at mitigating the risk button batteries pose to children will be introduced on Wednesday thanks to the tireless campaign of a heartbroken mother.

National safety standards on the use of button batteries will come into force on June 22, 18 months after the reform was introduced by the previous coalition government.

The move comes after three Australian children died and 44 others were injured following incidents involving button batteries, which are contained in millions of consumer goods around the world.

Under new mandatory safety and information standards, products must have battery compartments secured to prevent children from accessing them.

Manufacturers must undertake compliance testing, supply batteries in child-resistant packaging, and place additional warnings and emergency advice on product packaging.

The standards will be enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), with breaches resulting in fines of up to $10 million.

“These first global mandatory standards for button batteries are an important step in helping to prevent injuries in children,” said ACCC Vice President Delia Rickard.

The standards were introduced in December 2020 with an 18-month transition period to give businesses time to prepare. During the transition period, the ACCC worked with the industry to explain the necessary changes.

“We are pleased that some suppliers have acted early with recalls to remove unsafe products containing button batteries from the market,” Ms. Rickard said.

“Button batteries are found in many common household items such as toys, remote controls, watches, digital kitchen scales and thermometers. If swallowed, they can cause serious injury to children, and we encourage consumers to review the list of recalled products on the Product Safety website.

“The compartment containing the coin cell battery should be secure and childproof, and if this is not the case, parents or caregivers should immediately stop using the product and keep it out of the reach of children” , she said.

If swallowed, a button cell battery can cause a chemical reaction that burns tissue, resulting in death or serious injury in a short time.

A heartbreaking loss leads to a tireless campaign

Melbourne mum Allison Rees lost her one-year-old daughter Bella in 2015 after she swallowed a button battery and died.

She has since campaigned for reform, aiming to raise awareness of the dangers of the common household item and save the lives of other children.

“After six years of campaigning, our concerns have finally been heard,” Allison wrote on her Facebook page to celebrate the news.

The devastated mother was so committed to change that she founded Bella’s Footprints “educate and raise awareness of the dangers of button batteries”.

“Our goal is to help reduce the number of button battery ingestions in Australia,” she said.

“The smallest of changes to merchandising, packaging, medical diagnostics and community awareness could mean a lot to the health and safety of our youngest citizens.

“Through education and awareness, we aim to make every family aware of the dangers of button batteries and prevent death or injury related to button batteries,” she said.

“We hope no other family will ever have to endure the pain and suffering of losing a precious child in such a horrific way.”

The ACCC has urged parents to keep new and used button cell batteries out of sight and out of reach of young children at all times.

“As soon as you are finished using a button battery, place tape on both sides of the battery and immediately dispose of it in an outdoor trash can, out of the reach of children, or recycle it safely,” said added Ms. Rickard.

Consumers are encouraged to report unsafe products through the Product Safety Australia website.

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