PSA: Don’t Let Kids Eat Lithium Batteries

We get a lot of press releases at Hackaday, but this one was horrific enough that we thought it was worth sharing. Apparently, some kids are accidentally eating lithium coin cell batteries. When this happens with bigger cells, usually greater than 20 millimeters (CR2032, CR2025, and CR2016) really bad things happen. Like burning esophaguses, and even death.

The National Capital Poison Center has done some research on this, and found that 14% of batteries swallowed over the past two years came from flameless candles like the ones above. We know some of our readers also deal with batteries in open trays, which are apparently pretty dangerous for children.

The National Capital Poison Center’s website has an entire page dedicated to battery safety, which is probably worth a read if you deal with batteries and small children on a regular basis. Should an incident occur, there’s even a hotline to call for assistance.

So, please, don’t swallow batteries, or let children put them in their mouths. After the break, a Canadian PSA song about not putting things in your mouth.

60 thoughts on “PSA: Don’t Let Kids Eat Lithium Batteries

  1. Also, please don’t mix gasoline into your beer. Oh, and no putting your hand underneath a running lawn mower blade. AND, parents, please don’t let your children play in traffic, or near an open window ledge 10 stories up. Talk about a “nanny state”. I suppose it’s needed now that the liberal snow flakes can’t even deal with a new US president! (they need to pet ponies, and play-doh therapy sessions).

    I say let Darwin have at it, and let God sort it out !

  2. Oh well, least it’s better than 50 years ago when people were commonly using lye to make soap at home.

    Many people kept the lye solution in an old soda bottle, or mixed it in a cup and forgot it on a table, and little kids would drink it and immediately burn their throat and esophagus.

    If they didn’t die immediately, the outcome would be severe scarring and the esophagus would shrink to the point where they wouldn’t be able to swallow anything. The treatment involved passing increasingly larger rubber tubes down the throat into the stomach to stretch the scar tissue until they could swallow food again. Then the action of swallowing would keep stretching the esophagus back to normal. All of that was of course incredibly painful.

      1. Poor and/or rural families used to do that. Lye is cheaper and it’s used directly as a laundry detergent as well because it dissolves fats.

        Especially the black kids tended to stink because their families saved money by converting used cooking oil and other leftover fats into soap. Of course with the sort raw materials and a domestic process the result turns out more effective than pleasant.

        1. I only eat rare-earth magnets before going on a date, it makes me more attractive.

          Unless, of course, your date has had a similar idea and has also eaten a magnet, then your reliant on which pole is facing which as to how well the date goes.

  3. Here in the uk all toys but not fake candles have screws that hold the battery cover on, which means that now all kids over three have a small collection of stolen screwdrivers.
    We kept our kids and poisonous, hot, mains elactrical and forestry equipment separately until they could asses risks, this takes about 3 to 5 years, it promised to be way more fun than it actually was, maybe my kids a way smarter than some or maybe we’re lucky……… sofar, or they learned a lot about hidden dangers from electric fencers!

      1. You think that’s funny but i remember the times when horrible accidents would occur very frequently because products just weren’t safe to use. Like children nightclothes that would ignite with just a small spark.

        1. Kids’ chemistry sets would have copper sulfate in them for “growing crystals”. You eat a teaspoon of it and it blows out your kidneys and liver, and leaves you with brain damage.

          The irony is, since it’s an irritant and makes you vomit, it was used as a home remedy for ingesting other poisons.

          1. I remember growing copper sulfate crystals back in science class and my mate crushing his up with the end of his pencil, then shortly after, without thinking, he put the pencil end in his month and suddenly realised his mistake.

            It was pretty funny at the time but I wasn’t aware of those side effects, might explain a few things about my friends behaviour thought.

          1. Exactly. Or heinous corporations that experiment with GMO’s. You take, say a fruit. It became a fruit through eons upon eons to come into existence. And humans, which have existed for some ~1.4 million years can somehow replicate it?

          2. I mentioned GMO’s, as it could be [citation needed] a considerable factor in this sweeping autism/down syndrome epidemic. Inherently, you are what you eat

          3. “And humans, which have existed for some ~1.4 million years can somehow replicate it?”

            Though in reality, humanity has basically made apples, bananas, oranges, pears, grapes, etc. through selective breeding in the last couple thousand years.

            Even still, if you let apple trees breed naturally the fruit becomes tiny and bitter because that’s how apples really are. All the varieties you eat are cloned from the few random mutations that weren’t.

    1. LOL. Medication and button cells obviously have a different physical composition. To think a adult would swallow something that doesn’t even feel like what it’s originally supposed to be, boggles me

      1. If only it was that simple, I felt it was time to point out that being an assassin is not a legitimate job, only to be told, “I’m going to be a librarian, my clients can leave the money and the hit in a library book as they hand it in” this kid was 8 at the time, now if only I were John Phillips the temlpar, life would feel less threatening.

  4. The problem is, a lot of people do not realise how cleaver a 3 year old is and how they love to put random stuff in their mouths and how determined they can be to get to the places they are not allowed to be.

  5. The litany of things that can happen to kids… Stories emerge from the BeforeTimes about babies burning themselves against the potbellied stove, or even earlier, falling into the fireplace. From the 1890’s until the mid-sixties, An Apple A Day used to give you your U.S.R.D.A. of Lead Arsenate, which the orchards were hogged down with on a regular basis to kill pests. There was one PSA that ran during Saturday morning cartoons in the early ’70s that gave my kid brain the idea that what ethnic kids did all day in the city was sit around and eat the lead paint off of windowsills. I couldn’t find that one, but I found the one about Poisons In The House https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYK565wNjJU and the one about those neat old refrigerators that latched like a bank vault, and every once in awhile a kid would accidentally suffocate himself in one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPbaQnGiBEo. Miniature magnets. Cribs were known to be babykillers after a few years; then the next, ‘safe’ design was found to be dangerous a few years later. Just don’t pass on car seats to young families; they are expensive, and required, but the plastic might be brittle after so many years of UV and besides that design is two years old now and considered as safe as putting your child in a loaded bear trap. Air Bags? Air bags save lives, and air bags kill, depending on the intensity of the crash, out of position drivers and passengers, and what may be between the airbag and your body at the moment they detonate. Mandated, and it took having a teenager getting her neck snapped by one in a low-speed fender bender before carmakers could install passenger side off switches on them. Kid’s chemistry sets? No, you can’t make them. Keep in mind that kids will put anything in their mouths, as Richard said above, they are ‘clever’ that way. You can’t get around the liability of chemistry sets by saying ‘for adults only’–the packaging on my set of vintage Bucky Balls proves that.

    1. Don’t forget the cords attached to window shades… keep them tied up high out of a child’s reach lest they accidentally hang themselves from it. I remember the lead PSA you mentioned.

  6. Thanks for the reminder HAD. Ex paeds nurse here. This issue is bloody serious.
    Mobile babies cruise around at floor level and put everything they find in their mouths.
    Results if not detected in time, can and have been lethal.
    Thankyou for the PSA, maybe you just saved a life, or a lifetime of suffering, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars of state healthcare money (for those of us who live in the free world, anyway).

    1. Because children don’t know what they are and like others have said, babies and toddlers put everything in their mouth. It isn’t out of gluttony, kids learn about the world using all their senses. Taste is a big one for them . When they encounter something new they engage all their senses to learn about it. They want to learn as much as they can about their world.
      They’re like hackers who aren’t all jaded.

      1. +1
        & If you ever want to find something you’ve dropped its much easier to find if you get down on hands and knees to search.
        Recently listened to a radio program on this topic where a mother was describing the tragic death of her infant daughter. The autopsy found an ingested coin cell battery to have been the cause. Mother explained she was very vigilant at watching her child, however she could not find an answer as to where the child found and ingested the battery… their house, family members house, child care? Her advice was if you ever drop a battery make sure you locate it and store it properly, and don’t let children with infant siblings use toys that contain these cells unless they have child proof battery housings – remote controls included.

    2. You don’t have children clearly.

      If they can pick it up, it’ll end up in their mouth. If they can’t pick it up, they’ll try and suck on it or chew on it. It’s natural instinct.

    1. This reminds me of a news story where a girl developed various allergies at 6? But at the age of 19? She had a sneezing fit and a tiddly wink popped out, it was stories like this that made me go with hardwood floors and a gate to keep the babies out of the kitchen, with a woodburner in it, bu any toy containing button cells were in fact banned until the youngest understood the risks, 4 years later we still hear, “oh this has the batteries we don’t buy” even though the house is awash with them.

  7. hmmm… I’m not a scientist, but the article states that “The National Capital Poison Center has done some research on this, and found that 14% of batteries swallowed over the past two years came from flameless candles like the ones above.”

    So now I’m wondering, what are the remaining 86% of the causes and isn’t it more important to focus on that?
    This article leaves me very confused. I’m very sure that most of the hackaday readers are past the stage where they put everything in their mouth (without thinking) so what is the target this article is aiming at.

    If this is because hackaday cares about the children of their readers well I think that’s very considerate but not does not cover the real dangers, because I assume that most hackaday readers have plenty of equipment that is far more dangerous then a swallowed batteries (which is not to be joked about, batteries can cause horrible injuries to your stomage).

    Regarding of dangerous, I watched the song with the blue puppets and it took me a few minutes to recover, this video should have had a warning. Please hackaday, prevent us from this kind of horror, you may show me pictures of damaged organs, sick people or talking doctors but please never again this silliness.

    Best whishes for 2017, to you all.

    1. “what are the remaining 86% of the causes”

      Coin cells are commonly used in keychain lights, because the standard 3V lithium coin cell is just enough to light up a blue LED. Other uses include remotes, calculators, kitchen timers, musical greeting cards… and kids’ electronic toys like talking books.

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