Investigation launched after child swallows button battery at Queensland childcare centre

A Queensland childcare provider says it is working on safety changes after a child swallowed a button battery and required emergency surgery. 

Key points:C&K Kindergarten Association says it is working on safety procedures after a child swallowed a button batteryThe incident occurred at an undisclosed early learning centre in Queensland on October 11Parents were told of a "serious incident" involving a child who required hospitalisation and surgery

C&K Kindergarten Association said it was cooperating fully with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and the Department of Education after the incident at an undisclosed early learning centre on October 11.

The association sent an email to parents on Monday, advising them of a "serious incident" involving a child who required hospitalisation and surgery. 

The ABC understands the child survived.

In the email, acting chief executive Sandra Cheeseman told parents the safety of children at the centres was their highest priority. 

"It is possible that button batteries may be brought into centres inadvertently," she said.

"We are appealing to all families to regularly check your child's bags, sheets, belongings, pockets and toys to ensure that no button batteries are brought into the centre." 

The organisation — which runs 330 kindergartens and childcare centres throughout the state — said in a statement that it was working with Kidsafe Queensland to ensure that it had the highest possible safety measures in place relating to button batteries.

"Our primary concern at all times is the health and safety of all children who attend C&K centres and we are devastated that one of the children in our care was injured," the statement said.

"We have formally communicated with Kidsafe Queensland details of the incident and will work with Kidsafe Queensland regarding our practices and procedures." 

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An experiment using a sausage shows how quickly a button battery can burn through tissue.

Button batteries prove deadly for children

The small, shiny batteries burn internally when swallowed, causing life-long injuries or death. 

Three Australian children have died from swallowing button batteries since 2013, including three-year-old Gold Coast girl Brittney Conway.

Brittney died last year in the Queensland Children's Hospital, three weeks after she swallowed a battery and endured significant medical procedures to save her life.

The CEO of Kidsafe Queensland, Susan Teerds, said one death was too many and the figures worldwide would be much higher.

Woman with bobbed curly blonde hair holding button batteries in the palm of her hand
Kidsafe Queensland's Susan Teerds says there have been thousands of deaths around the world from button batteries.(ABC News: Stu Bryce)

"Unfortunately, we have had three deaths in this country, but there have been thousands of deaths around the world," Ms Teerds said.

"This is a very serious issue; any legislation takes a long time to put in place." 

Ms Teerds said everyone in the community, even those without children, need to be vigilant about using and disposing of button battery products.

"Honestly, our world is full of button batteries," Ms Teerds said.

"They're in a lot of products: in children's shoes, in their clothing, wearable technology, little flameless plastic candles, they are in flashing bobby pins for their hair and wrist bracelets."

She encouraged anyone who had contact with children to look around their homes and dispose of any button batteries.

Dolly xray
An X-ray reveals a rusty button battery lodged in a young child's oesophagus.(Supplied)

"Have a look and see what products do contain button batteries," she said.

"Do you need that product? Could you replace it with something that has the old-fashioned big batteries?

"You've really got to do a risk analysis; should that product be here? It isn't worth the danger that it poses to children."

Legislation introduced to prevent deaths

Earlier this year, the federal government said it would introduce safety and information standards for button batteries and products that contained them. 

The mandatory laws are a world first, but the new mandatory standards govern consumer products only. 

They require secure battery compartments for any item that contains button batteries, safety testing of those compartments, child-resistant packaging for the batteries themselves, and product warnings to alert customers that the product that they are buying contains a button battery.

A range of button batteries in different sizes.
Button batteries come in a range of sizes.(Supplied: Choice)

In addition to existing child-resistant packaging, Duracell launched new child protective technology in April to help minimise the risk of accidental ingestion.

"People thought that batteries were a choking hazard," Ms Teerds said.

"They actually literally burn holes through tissue once they've got any moisture around them. 

"So it's been a very long education process."

Posted 11 Nov 202111 Nov 2021Thu 11 Nov 2021 at 3:28amShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp


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