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Children At Risk As 'Button' Battery Swallowing Increases

Button batteries, commonly used in children's toys as well as remote controls, cameras and electronic greeting cards, present a threat to children who swallow them, according to a report published in Pediatrics on May 14.

The incidence of swallowed (or otherwise tucked into one of the body's orifices) micro batteries doubled from 1990 to 2009, researchers said.

The increase resulted in an average annual rate of 5,525 children under the age of 18 undergoing emergency room admission.

The rise in emergency department visits coincided with the introduction of the 3-volt 20-millimeter lithium battery into the market, said researcher Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. This newer battery "is more powerful and can cause tissue damage much more quickly," Smith added.

Swallowing the battery is sometimes harmless; however, problems arise when a battery becomes lodged in the esophagus, for example. The study noted a 6.7 fold increase in fatal outcomes in battery swallowing from 1985 to 2009.

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