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High Risk of Injury

In May 2010, a study conducted by the US National Capital Poison Center (NCPC) and researchers from Georgetown University and the University of Virginia revealed a sevenfold increase in cases of lithium button cell ingestion that led to serious injury or even death. Soon enough, both conventional media and social media outlets were warning about the danger posed to children by household products that contain lithium button cells.

In recent years, out of roughly 3,500 annual button-battery ingestion cases in the US about 3% lead to moderate to severe injuries, up from 0.5% a decade ago. The most frequent victims of button-battery ingestion are children under 4 and in 90% of serious injuries the batteries at fault were CR or BR type lithium button cells marked 2016, 2025 and 2032.

The 3 Volt lithium batteries can be particularly dangerous because their 20mm size (size of a US nickel) makes them more prone to getting stuck in the esophagus if swallowed. When in contact with saliva, these batteries can generate hydroxide and cause perforations of the esophagus in as little as two hours.

Improve Your Product Design

The NCPC report was intensely covered by US media in an attempt to make the public aware of the risks posed by products from which lithium-button cells can easily be removed. As the report revealed, about two thirds of juvenile battery ingestions occur when the child obtains the battery directly from a household product, the remaining third being loose batteries and batteries in their original packaging. Most frequently, 20mm lithium coin batteries are removed from remote controls, key fobs, PDAs, watches and hand held games.

As a result, the US National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), the trade association for the non-rechargeable battery industry, recommended all household device manufacturers that use lithium coin batteries to include warnings on product packaging and instructions directly on products and to also consider redesigning products to ensure battery compartments are secure and only accessible with a tool. These measures are already part of the ASTM F963-07 standard for toy manufacturers.

Warning Labels Are Not Enough

Redesigning the product to secure the access to lithium coin batteries is essential. Manufacturers, who consider that displaying warnings on their products is enough, might be in for a surprise. While warnings will make parents wary of the risks posed by products that use coin batteries, they might also prompt them to choose a competing product that has already secured the access to these batteries. Furthermore, warnings are inefficient after the product has reached the hands of the preliterate child who is aching with curiosity to see inside the product. As the NCPC report showed, this is how two out of three battery ingestion cases occur.

With many US parents of young children now aware of the risks posed by lithium coin batteries in household products, manufacturers who quickly implement new, child-proof, product designs are likely to see their efforts rewarded by this category of consumers very soon. SGS can help you incorporate critical construction criteria and compliance requirements in your product design, to ensure the safe use of your products. We have extensive experience and expertise in the performance, consultancy and testing of both appliances and batteries.

For questions about the risk of ingesting coin cells, battery related analysis, testing or certifications services please contact:

Jody Leber

SGS - U. S. Testing Company, Inc.
t: +1 678 469 9835
Website: www.ee.sgs.com

About SGS

The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With more than 59,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world.