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Safety Officials Warn of Risks of Button Batteries after Toddler’s Death


An unimaginable Christmastime tragedy is prompting warnings of the dangers of button-shaped batteries found in many popular toys and electronics. On December 26, two-year-old Brianna Florer happily opened gifts with siblings at her grandparents’ Jay, Oklahoma home. She had run a low-grade fever and was nauseous for a few days, but nothing seemed particularly alarming.


Late Sunday evening, though, everything changed when Brianna vomited blood and her tiny body turned a blue shade. She was rushed to a local hospital, where an X-ray revealed the problem. Sometime in the days before, the girl had swallowed a button battery. Once diagnosed, Brianna was rushed to St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, where she immediately underwent surgery but could not be saved.


Typically, a battery will pass through the digestive system. However, if it lodges in the esophagus or digestive tract, it can open and release an alkaline substance that can cause corrosive or burning injuries that can prove fatal.


The problem is more common than many parents realize. Related emergency room visits now exceed 5,000 annually – roughly one every 90 minutes, and fatal injuries can occur in less than two hours, according to a study by the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Between 2005 and 2014, 11,940 battery-swallowing incidents involving children under age six were reported to the National Capitol Poison Center in Washington, DC. Among those cases, 15 children died and another 101 suffered major medical conditions as a result. But swallowing the batteries isn’t the only concern. They also can cause serious complications when lodged in the nose or ear.


Besides toys and electronics, button batteries also are commonly used in remote controls, garage door openers, bathroom scales, cameras, watches, calculators, digital thermometers, hearing aids, singing greeting cards, talking books, flashlights, pen lights, flashing shoes, power toothbrushes, bedwetting monitors, key chains and flashing or lighted jewelry and clothing


Protect your children by checking all items powered by button batteries to ensure the battery compartments are secured shut. When shopping for battery-operated items, choose those that require a screwdriver or other tool to open the compartment or feature a child-resistant locking mechanism. Store spare batteries out of sight and reach of children.


If you suspect that your child has swallowed a button battery, get him or her to a doctor for immediate medical treatment. Then, call 800-251-1111 to speak with a product liability or personal injury attorney with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell.