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West Sussex County Council warns of unsafe childen's toys online

An unsafe children's toy found by West Sussex Trading Standards. Photo - West Sussex County Council.

West Sussex Trading Standards, in partnership with the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT), is advising residents across the county to be careful when buying children’s toys online which contain button cell batteries.

At least two children a year die as a result of swallowing lithium coin cell batteries in the UK and surgeons at Great Ormond Street Hospital are seeing an average of one child a month with corrosive burns caused by button batteries.

The safety warning comes after West Sussex Trading Standards bought a number of cheap toys and novelty products from popular internet sites which failed external laboratory testing due to the ease of access to the button cell batteries inside.

Three items were submitted for testing, these included a Happy Birthday light up crown and a child’s torch. All three failed safety assessments due to ease of access to the batteries.

Peter Aston, Trading Standards Team Manager said: “Our officers bought a number of toys and novelty items which are clearly intended for children, and which had batteries that were easily accessed. If swallowed lithium coin cell batteries can cause internal burns and lead to serious internal injuries and even death.

“When we received the reports from our test house, we took immediate steps to ensure the items we bought were removed from sale and investigations are underway to look at who sold them.”

Particular restrictions apply to toys and child appealing items, but many products around the home contain button cell batteries which may be accessible to children.

Residents are advised to look round their homes for products containing lithium coin cell batteries and to keep them well out of children’s reach if the battery compartment isn’t secured.

Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust said: “Button batteries cause corrosive burns inside the body if they’re swallowed and get stuck. Young children have died or been left with life-changing injuries. While battery compartments in toys should be secure, it’s still far too easy to buy dangerous products online. Please check what you’ve bought. And, if you think your little one has swallowed a battery, act fast and get them straight to hospital.”

CAPT provide some top tips on their website for keeping children safe from these types of batteries, including:

• Look round your home for lithium coin cell batteries – in products as well as spare and ‘flat’ batteries.
• Store spare button batteries in a sealed container in a high cupboard.
• Remember that ‘flat’ or ‘dead’ batteries still hold enough power to badly hurt a child. So put them out of children’s reach straight away and recycle them safely and as quickly as possible.
• If you think your child has swallowed a button battery, don’t delay, take them to A&E straight away or call 999 for an ambulance. Don’t let them eat or drink and don’t make them sick.

Duncan Crow, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Community Support, Fire and Rescue, said: “The dangerous nature of button batteries is something that our Trading Standards Team often warn residents about, as the energy from the battery reacts with saliva to create the same chemical that unblocks drains – caustic soda.

“Our advice for anyone purchasing a toy or novelty product designed for children that contains button cell batteries, is to make sure it has a battery compartment that needs a screwdriver or coin to open, or which requires two independent movements together (for example where it takes one hand to hold back a spring and the other to open the cover).”

To find out more information about the risks, examples of where we may find button batteries around our homes and what to do in an emergency if you think a child has swallowed one, visit CAPT's website.

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