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Button batteries: New mandatory safety standards to curb the risks

Some good news to finish the year, new safety standards for button batteries.

Need to know

  • The Australian Government has announced it will introduce new mandatory safety and information standards for products containing button batteries
  • The new standards follow extensive consultation with health professionals, industry, government and consumer advocates, including CHOICE
  • Manufacturers, suppliers and retailers have been given 18 months to ensure their products and packaging comply
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"Manufacturers, suppliers and retailers have been given 18 months to ensure their products and packaging comply with the standards for button batteries. "

“Not good enough” or “Too little, too late”.

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A great outcome both as a result for users and also for CHOICE and others who have campaigned for the needed changes, one product safety change that is well overdue. I agree with @Fred123 that 18 months to comply is far too long given the already long history of complaints, deaths, and advocacy to address the issues. Industry have had long enough already and the extension of time to comply seems very liberal (you may see a double intent in meaning here) in it’s length.

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It is a great outcome and well done Choice for pursuing.

I also hope that parents also play their role (adhere to the warnings on the packaging) in ensuring that any buttons batteries which may not be in packaging or devices, are stored in a location inaccessible to any children. If this is also followed, the risks will be almost extinguished.

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Had need to replace the button battery in the Car key ring. Accessing the battery, despite a 17year old design requires tools and skills that might defy many adults. And an unusual profile star or Phillips head jewellers screw driver, in two sizes.

The new battery package was definitely adult resistant requiring two goes with the scissors to outwit the double sealed encapsulation. Must be in anticipation of the new standard.

That just leaves safe disposal of the used cells to manage. Perhaps the battery suppliers can offer a small child resistant jar with locking screw top or one way slot in the lid. Or a sealable pocket in the packaging especially for the used one. One way adhesive to secure the battery to the package and permanently seal the opening.

The risk remains of all the legacy toys and devices that hold these button cells, and pop open easily. Perhaps the improved security of the packaging will help increase awareness and everyday consumers will think about replacing the devices with insecure battery compartments. Hope I’ve been double guessed and such advice might make it onto the battery packaging.

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From a Choice article.

"### 20 children a week is 20 too many

In Australia, three children have now died after swallowing a button battery. Product Safety Australia estimates that 20 children a week are presenting at emergency departments nationwide suspected of having swallowed or inserted a button battery."

So the disgracefull 18 month delay will result in around some 1,560 children presenting to hospitals, but if we are really lucky, then hopefully no deaths in that period.

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It took me only a minute or two to change the battery in my Toyota key pod. It was very simple.

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A more recent product than our aged Toyota that still requires a key. Do you think the Toyota key pod securely protects the button battery from loss or child access?

Note: I was remarking on the fact that even a 17yo product could be child resistant, and for many adults likely also a challenge. Toolkit dependant. A good outcome, but not ideal as you still require a button cell. One of the Toyota battery compartment screws had finer star slots than any screw driver I had in the tool kits a I’ve used for instrument work or modelling. Assume there is a Toyota dealer tool for just that task. Doubtless the Battery kiosks have also a supply.

My Ford key remote uses a 12v cell like a half sized AA battery which is less attractive than a button cell and much larger than a button cell. No problem finding a screw driver for the Ford remote.

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“Do you think the Toyota key pod securely protects the button battery from loss or child access?”

Yes, I do. I used a kitchen knife to pry it open. That’s not something that a toddler could do.

I’ve never had the pod burst open when dropped or any other time.

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If possible, products should use standard AA or AAA batteries rather than button batteries. We have two lots of kitchen scales. One uses AA batteries and they last for ages, our other similar one uses button batteries. The button batteries have to be removed after each use (which is a pain), otherwise they drain within a week even though not being used. Luckily no small kids are around as the batteries are kept on top of the scales.

We also have various halloween lights, they are very similar, some use AA or AA batteries, whilst others contain button batteries. There is no necessity for them to have button batteries as they are of sufficient size to use AAA batteries.

Why not just mandate that button batteries can’t be used in a product when it is possible to modify it to run on larger batteries?

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In contrast to your experience with your scales we have many devices from scales to key fobs to watches to a few other things with button batteries, and all last 3-5 years. Could it be your scale is faulty? Your point is well taken though.

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Yes it is possible our scales are faulty, or it is a design flaw, but they could easily have fitted two AA batteries in it. I should have returned it, but didn’t think about it at the time. It was actually one of the Choice recommended models and is quite good when the battery is in place!

To propose the obvious, it sounds like your scale is always ON. Sitting there ready to weigh something. Running the little microprocessor that computes the weight.
Button batteries, being small, cannot hold much electrical charge compared to bigger batteries.
As you go up from AAA to AA to C to D they all have the same voltage but greater charge capacity.

And people wonder why products are more expensive in Australia. I wonder how many products will be withdrawn and how many prices will rise because parents can’t be trusted to keep remotes, etc, away from their kids?

Most products in Australia do not use button cells. It seems an unlikely explanation. Unless there us a report on products sold in Australian that supports that conclusion?

Button cells have very little stored energy and are relatively expensive compared to AA or AAA cells. The added cost of a larger battery holder in a remote to accept a pair of AAA batteries very little. Possibly no more than the saving in cost from not needing to supply an expensive button cell with the remote. Importantly AA and AAA rechargable batteries are readily available.

As an ex parent of young children, what price their safety? Children are not expendable, irrespective of their circumstances.

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One of the ongoing trends is the harmonisation of rules to satiate manufacturers desires to have a single set of rules. We have a few outliers such as the ANZ certification for bike helmets, and Australia has long been one of the world leaders in introducing safety mandates from the black box to understand why airplaces crash, to seatbelts in cars, and our bike helmet standards.

In many cases the world has followed, not just special cased our market and raised prices to do so. Life and safety has a value, not just a cost. Yet as pointed out many design decisions are based on form or cost, not best practices for safety. There will be a trade-off for button batteries noting it is being recognised as an issue globally.

There are myriad web sites from many countries wringing hands and issuing warnings about them; Australia seems to be among those looking to step up to enact a change, whatever that may be.

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Please show us some evidence that the reason some products are more expensive in Oz is due to excessive safety requirements.

A related topic, germane to that assertion.

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Another article regarding button battery tragedies.

The experiment with the sausage is incredible.

“We need a general safety provision that makes it illegal to sell unsafe goods in Australia,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said. “At the moment, it is not illegal.”

She has certainly got that right.

:clap: :clap: :clap:

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