Button batteries pose life-threatening dangers to young children
Loose button batteries and products containing button batteries should be kept out of sight and reach of children; if a suspected button battery ingestion occurs, seek immediate emergency medical attention.
Cases of young children swallowing button batteries resulting in serious internal injury and death continue to be reported in Canada. In 2020, the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP), an injury and poisoning emergency room surveillance system administered by the Public Health Agency of Canada, received reports of 125 button-battery related injuries in 2020. Between 2016 and 2019, an average of 114 cases per year were reported to CHIRPP.
Health Canada is reminding parents and caregivers about the dangers of button batteries.
If swallowed, button batteries can become lodged in a child's throat. The child's saliva instantly triggers an electrical current causing a chemical reaction that can burn through the esophagus, the wind pipe and the main artery. This can take as little as two hours. Even after the battery is removed, the severity of the burn can continue to worsen. Depleted or dead batteries can still carry enough charge to cause serious injuries and death.
Button batteries are found in a wide range of household products accessible to children, such as toys, watches, calculators, remote controls, hearing aids, flashing jewelry, flameless candles, laser pointers, singing books and greeting cards. Children may also access button batteries from the battery's packaging or loose, improperly stored or discarded batteries.
In reported cases of swallowing, young children found the batteries loose on the floor, in garbage bins, on countertops, or took them directly from the battery's packaging or from products. Even adults, particularly seniors, have confused button batteries with pills or food and have been injured.
What you should do
It is important to act quickly if someone has swallowed a button battery as it can cause life-threatening internal burns in as little as two hours. Even used or expired batteries can cause life-threatening injuries.
- Someone who has swallowed a button battery may not show any symptoms or they may show non-specific symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal or chest pain, fever, difficulty breathing and swallowing or loss of appetite. If you think that a child or adult has swallowed a button battery, get them to the nearest emergency department immediately. Do not induce vomiting.
- Several health organizations, including the Ontario Poison Centre and Alberta Health Services, advise giving your child honey on the way to the emergency department, as studies have shown that this may reduce the risk of serious injury. Take your child to the nearest emergency department immediately. Do not delay to obtain or give them honey. Remember that Health Canada advises to only give honey to healthy children over one year of age to avoid the risk of infant botulism.
Due to the dangers they pose to young children, especially those under the age of five, new or used button batteries should always be stored out of sight and reach of children.
- Check regularly that button battery compartments are secure.
- Look for products with battery compartments that are not easy to open.
- Always supervise children when they use products containing button batteries.
- Never store button batteries near food and/or medicine.
- When replacing button batteries, make sure that used batteries are discarded quickly and properly and are out of sight and reach of children.
- Place pieces of non-conductive tape (packing, scotch or electrical tape) on either side of button batteries after removing them from products and before disposing of them.
- Contact your municipality for instructions on how to safely dispose of button batteries. Batteries are considered hazardous waste and should not be placed in household garbage.
What is being done
What Health Canada is doing
Health Canada is committed to helping protect Canadians from potentially dangerous consumer products. The Department regularly monitors consumer products on the Canadian market to verify if they comply with Canadian legislation and do not pose a danger to human health or safety.
Button batteries are currently identified by Health Canada as a hazard of concern. As our understanding of the hazards evolves, Heath Canada will consider what additional risk management steps are warranted. If there is reason to believe that a particular consumer product, or a class of products, poses a danger to human health or safety, the Department will take appropriate action to mitigate risks to human health and safety.
Report health and safety concerns
Health Canada advises consumers to check the Government of Canada's Recalls and Safety Alerts website regularly for any recalled products and to report any consumer product-related health or safety concerns.
For more information
- Battery safety
- Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program Stay connected with Health Canada and receive the latest advisories and product recalls using social media tools.