EcoWaste warns vs dangers of button batteries

Posted at 07/22/2014 2:25 PM | Updated as of 07/22/2014 3:35 PM

MANILA - Environmental watchdog EcoWaste Coalition warned parents of the hazards of button batteries, which may be accidentally ingested by their children while playing with their toys.

Citing data from the University of the Philippines National Poison Management and Control Center (NPMCC), the EcoWaste Coalition said batteries ranked third among the top 10 poison agents in 2013 in terms of in-patient referrals for the pediatric age group.

The small, thin, coin-shaped batteries, which contain acids and heavy metals, are often used in children's talking books, games and toys, flashing jewelry, hair accessories and shoes, hearing aids, musical greeting cards, pocket calculators, remote controls, wrist watches and other portable electronic devices.

Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect, said button batteries may pose risks to children.

"Oftentimes, children push button batteries into their nostrils or swallow the batteries. Prolonged contact with the mucus membranes in the nose or in the stomach may cause burns or ulcers," Dr. Carissa Deoquino, head of UP NPMCC said.

If the battery is at least 1.5 centimeters in diameter, it "can get lodged in some parts of the gastrointestinal tract of children less than 6 years of age and cause obstruction," Deoquino added.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, if the battery gets stuck in the throat, it can cause internal chemical burns in as quick as two hours.

Other serious injuries can also result from batteries leaking or overheating.

The EcoWaste Coalition said some batteries which contain mercury are targeted for phase out by 2020 under the Minamata Convention on Mercury that governments, including the Philippines, signed in October 2013, except for button zinc silver oxide and zinc air button batteries with less than 2 percent mercury content.

The group gave pointers on how to reduce the risk of ingestion of small button batteries.

It said parents should read the label of children's products carefully and follow the safety instructions on battery use, storage and disposal.

They should also ensure that button batteries are duly secured with a screw.

Button batteries should be kept in their original packaging, stored in a childproof container, and kept out of children's sight and reach.

Parents should not allow their children to handle and install button batteries, and never let them play with them.

In any case of poisoning, parents should immediately bring their children to their physicians.

To obtain advice, the public may also call the UP NPMCC's 24-hour poison information service at 5241078 or 5548400 local 2311.