Why are lithium coin batteries so dangerous for children?

In this interview, News-Medical spoke with Dr. Tanya Altman about her recent partnership with Duracell, which encourages people to learn about the safety of lithium coin-cell batteries.

Please can you tell us about the Power Safely initiative?

I am pleased to have partnered with Duracell on their Power Safely initiative to help encourage parents of young children to learn more about the safety of lithium coin-cell batteries. Duracell and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have joined forces to help educate parents, caregivers, and pediatricians like me about the importance of practicing lithium coin battery safety throughout the home.

Duracell has also developed a Power Safety Checklist that provides key information on the safety of lithium coin batteries and serves as a tool for pediatricians to share with families.

Why is this cause so important?

Lithium coin batteries can have devastating results if accidentally swallowed. Duracell hopes to help reduce the number of accidental takeovers by continuing to help educate parents and carers about the safety of lithium coin batteries, as well as continuous work to develop new innovative technologies.

The Duracell Power Safely initiative was launched in October 2020 to help reduce the risk of accidental takeovers and draw attention to the hidden dangers of lithium coin-cell batteries. Even the most child-protected homes may still have hidden dangers that parents and caregivers may not be aware of. Duracell has developed the Power Safely checklist to encourage families to take practical prevention steps, such as using lithium batteries with coins that come in child-resistant packaging and have a bitter coating to discourage swallowing.

Duracell | Help keep children safe

What is a lithium coin battery and what does it look like? What types of devices around the house usually contain lithium batteries with coins?

Lithium coin batteries are small, nickel-sized, and are found in many common household items such as remote controls, keychains, kitchen scales and scales, string lamps and thermometers, and many other household appliances.

Parents and caregivers can download the Duracell Power Safely checklist online at Duracell.com https://www.duracell.com/powersafely for tips on how to help make their homes safer.

Why are lithium coin batteries so dangerous to swallow?

Young children are curious by nature, and part of their exploration of the world around them may involve putting things in their mouths, which can be especially dangerous with items such as lithium coin batteries. The lithium coin battery is the same diameter as a child’s esophagus, so if swallowed, the lithium coin battery can get stuck in the child’s esophagus, causing serious damage to surrounding tissues in just two hours.

The Duracell Safe Power Checklist includes tips to help parents and guardians identify potential

hidden dangers in their homes and educate them on how to help make their home safer.

If a child swallows a lithium coin battery, what should you do and what should you not do?

If you suspect that your child has swallowed a lithium coin or other small battery, do not wait to take action. Take them to the emergency room immediately! If you cannot drive, call 911 for assistance.

Can you describe a few simple steps that can enable parents or guardians to make their homes safer for children?

Here are five simple steps to protect your home:

  • Go down to your child’s eye level to see what he sees. Look for loose lithium coin batteries in sofa cushions, low tables and shelves, or any other place the child can reach.
  • Store all new and used coin-operated lithium batteries in a safe, high and out of reach of a child. Secure the lithium battery compartments with coins by tightening the screws or securing them with tape. The tape can ensure that the compartment does not accidentally open.
  • Choose Duracell coin-cell lithium batteries that have a non-toxic bitter coating designed to help prevent ingestion and are available in child-resistant packaging.
  • Young children and young children are curious by nature, so careful observation is key. Get together with friends and family to spread this information and help keep children safe.

Duracell batteries

Image Credit: Duracell

How can lithium batteries be made safer?

Duracell takes the safety of the lithium coin battery very seriously and is constantly working to update safety features to help reduce the risk of accidental ingestion. Duracell’s 20mm lithium coin batteries (sizes 2032, 2025 and 2016) come with a non-toxic, extremely bitter coating on the battery cage, which is designed to help a child not swallow it.

Combined with a child-resistant packaging that makes it almost impossible to open without scissors, Duracell added the bitter substance as another line of defense that can help discourage swallowing if a child puts a lithium coin battery in their mouth.

How do you hope this initiative and the dissemination of this information will help children and their guardians in the future?

The Power Safely checklist not only provides parents and caregivers with important information, but helps pediatricians like me be armed with key information in an easy-to-share, two-sided, laminated card. Pediatricians can share this checklist with patients during good pediatric examinations to help them explain things like:

  • What is and looks like a lithium coin battery
  • The types of devices that usually contain lithium batteries with coins
  • A few simple steps you can take to make your home safer
  • QR code that you can scan to find more information online

What would be your message at home to parents and guardians with young children?

Parents should keep lithium batteries away from young children. Child-safe packaging and product innovations such as bitter coating offer additional layers of safety to help protect children. Watch young children closely, as they are curious, so careful observation is key.

Be sure to team up with friends and family to share this information and help keep children safe.

Where can readers find more information?

The Duracell Power Safety Checklist is available for download at: https://www.duracell.com/powersafely

About Dr. Tanya Altman

A working mother and UCLA-trained pediatrician who practices in Southern California, Dr. Tanya Altman is a best-selling author, parenting expert in network television, and a consultant in the entertainment and children’s products industry.Dr. Tanya Altman

Dr. Tanya is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, approved by the National Medical Organization to communicate complex medical issues in easy-to-understand concepts. As a child health expert for a number of news programs and talk shows, including Today (NBC), CNN, KTLA 5 Morning News (CW Los Angeles) and The Doctors, Dr. Tanya discusses medical news and controversial parenting issues.

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