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348 The battery controlled: an inter-agency partnership to address a little-known risk to children
  1. Alessandra Francoia,
  2. Ann Weaver
  1. Safekids New Zealand


Background When a child swallows or inserts a button battery into the nose or ears, it can get stuck in the throat or in the nose or ear canal. Saliva triggers an electrical current causing severe burns and tissue damage within 2 hours. This results in serious injury that may require surgery, or even the death of a child.

Between 2011 and 2013, the National Poisons Centre of New Zealand received 175 calls regarding children under 6 years swallowing or inserting batteries into their nose or ears. 63 children have also been treated at the Starship Children’s Health Emergency Department from March 2009 to February 2012.

Children under 6 years old represent the greatest risk. Small children often have easy access to coin-sized batteries and devices that use them, and many parents do not know there is a risk.

Objective Develop an effective collaboration with government and non-government agencies, industry, design experts and medical first responders to proactively address an emerging child injury issue—the ingestion and insertion of powerful coin sized lithium batteries by children.

Results In April 2014, Safekids Aotearoa announced The Battery Controlled – a partnership to raise awareness about this issue and share information with the medical first responders, medical community, regulators, parents, caregivers, manufacturers and retailers.

This effort is committed to helping prevent children from swallowing coin-sized button batteries, and for parents and medical first responders to know what to do if they suspect a child has swallowed a button battery.

This presentation will describe the key components of the campaign, including identifying key partners and how each contributed to addressing the injury issue from all angles – regulation, product design, packaging, education and awareness.

15,000 pamphlets were distributed throughout education and health providers, home visitors and care givers to families around the country. 240 kits to demonstrate the risks of the product and how the injury can be prevented were provided to organisations and government services. 90% of the resource users evaluated the material as effective and very effective and that they learnt a lot about the issue.

The presentation also describes the different mediums and technology used to reach the right audience.

Conclusions Outcomes to date include support from the then Ministers of Health and Consumer Affairs, International recognition for New Zealand as a world-leader in button battery child injury prevention, strong media support and heightened public awareness of the injury issue.

  • button battery
  • product
  • safety
  • children

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