Button Battery Tragedies Could Be Prevented With Reese’s Law

Trista Hamsmith lost her daughter, Reese, when she swallowed a button cell battery in October 2020.

Reese endured countless surgeries and scopes and was intubated under sedation for 40 days. Reese lost her fight on December 17, 2020, at just 18 months old.

“As a mom, I cannot tell you the cost to add safer closures to products with button batteries,” Hamsmith said. “I can, however, confidently speak to the cost of not having these safety measures in place.”

“Every day we are reminded of just how much our family lost – through countless tears when we find something of Reese’s when least expected and sleepless nights seeing her face in our dreams,” she continued. “The greatest cost of all, though, is missing the brightest light in our lives and the immense pain that no family should have to endure.”

Button batteries are easily swallowed, and can get stuck in a child's esophagus.
Photo: Adobe Stock / dinaphoto
Button batteries are easily swallowed, and can get stuck in a child’s esophagus.

According to the National Capital Poison Center, there were 4000 button battery ingestions reported in the U.S. in 2020. However, it is estimated that only 11% of all cases are reported, meaning this is happening to 36,000 children annually.

As Dr. Emily Durkin, medical director of children’s surgery at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, told TODAY, button batteries can easily become trapped near the entrance and exits of a child’s small esophagus, where they can cause serious injuries.

There were 4000 button battery ingestions reported in the U.S. in 2020.
Photo: Adobe Stock / dezign56
There were 4000 button battery ingestions reported in the U.S. in 2020.

“If you get a narrow, flat, pancake-like button battery that gets stuck at one of these natural narrowings, then the front wall of the esophagus collapses against the button battery and the back wall,” Durkin said. “(This) completes that circuit, and electric current actually flows through the esophageal tissues. And when that happens, it starts to kill the tissues at the burn.”

Elsewhere around the world, these tragedies are being addressed and prevented.

National standards were recently passed related to button battery safety in consumer products in Australia, where more than one child a month is seriously injured as a result of ingesting or inserting the batteries.

It is estimated that only 11% of all button battery cases are reported, meaning this is happening to 36,000 children annually.
It is estimated that only 11% of all button battery cases are reported, meaning this is happening to 36,000 children annually.

Under the mandatory safety and information standards, products must have secure battery compartments to prevent children from gaining access to the batteries. Manufacturers must undertake compliance testing, supply batteries in child-resistant packaging, and place additional warnings and emergency advice on packaging and instructions.

Legislation introduced in 2021 could bring the same mandatory safe industry standards to the U.S.

Button batteries are commonly used in electronics.
Photo: Adobe Stock / Antonioguillem
Button batteries are commonly used in electronics.

Reese’s Law (H​.​R. 5313 and S​.​3278) will call for national standards related to consumer products with button batteries, specifically:

  • Button cell battery compartments of all consumer products to be secured, to the greatest extent practicable, in a manner that reduces access to button cell batteries by children that are 3 years of age or younger.
  • Warning labels that clearly identify the hazard of ingestion, instructs consumers to keep new and used batteries out of the reach of children and to seek immediate medical attention if a battery is ingested on all consumer products with button batteries and on the batteries themselves.
Help us strengthen safety standards for button batteries and protect children's lives!
Photo: Adobe Stock / Xuejun li
Help us strengthen safety standards for button batteries and protect children’s lives!

What happened to Reese can be prevented from happening to others. Help us change the standards to keep all children safe from the dangers of button battery ingestion. Click below to sign the petition!

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