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Know the dangers of button batteries

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A close up image of a button battery.

Dangers of button batteries

A pile of button batteries on a table.

Between 2010 and 2019, more than 7,000 people visited the emergency room due to battery-related injuries, according to a study published in Pediatrics journal. Many of the patients were small children. The study showed that children under the age of five are at the greatest risk for injury from swallowing tiny “button” lithium batteries. Toddlers are at high risk of choking on small objects, often landing them in emergency rooms.

About button batteries

A black and white calculator powered by button batteries.
Two glow in the dark pens powered by button batteries on a table.
A person holding a digital thermometer in front of a packaging containing button batteries.

The first thing to know about button batteries is that they are everywhere in your home. You will find them in calculators, hearing aids, laser pointers, digital thermometers, games and toys, light-up bouncing balls, penlights, talking books, singing greeting cards, blinking tree ornaments, clip-on reading lights, and, of course, smartwatches. Rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are commonly found in electronic devices like tablets, digital cameras, e-readers, and cell phones.

Signs of trouble

A little girl blowing her nose with a tissue after accidentally ingesting button batteries.
A little girl in a hospital bed with button batteries.

If you swallow a button battery, you may experience wheezing, coughing, gagging, and vomiting while eating or drinking. Button batteries remain dangerous even when removed. If a child swallows one of these batteries, saliva can interact with the current. This can result in a chemical reaction that can severely burn the child’s esophagus. Representatives of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia warn that the result could be perforation of the esophagus, vocal cord paralysis, or trachea (airway) erosion. Inserting a lithium battery in the nose or ear can cause serious harm like perforation of the nasal septum, hearing loss, or facial nerve paralysis.

What to do

Call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 800-498-8666 if your child swallowed a button battery or has one in their nose or ear. Seek medical attention right away. If a child swallows a battery, do not give them anything to eat or drink until an x-ray shows the battery is no longer in their esophagus. Batteries must be removed from the throat, nose, or ear as quickly as possible to avoid lasting damage.

Proper disposal

Remember that batteries should be disposed of separately from other recyclables since mixing them could cause a fire. Li-ion batteries need critical minerals like lithium, cobalt, and graphite that can’t be replaced. Therefore, if they are simply thrown into the trash, critical resources that are important to the U.S. are lost.

A person holding a plastic bag full of food and button batteries.

When it’s time for disposal, place your battery or the item containing the battery in a plastic bag. You can also put electrical tape over the battery’s terminals for an extra measure of safety. Li-ion batteries and the devices they contain, such as cell phones and tablets, should be taken to a recycling center. Here at Urban E-Recycling, we handle batteries separate from other recyclables to prevent the possibility of fire. We can dispose of all batteries, even dangerous button batteries.

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