Lisa Madigan: Button batteries can be deadly for kids

Attorney General Lisa Madigan highlighted a darker side of the holiday season today at a news conference announcing the release of the state's Safe Shopping Guide, which lists all consumer items recalled in 2011, including dozens of children’s products.

This year Madigan accompanied the announcement with warnings about the growing danger for children of button battery ingestion.

These batteries, often found in small consumer electronics, can easily become lodged in the esophagus of a child or, even if it doesn’t cause choking, can poison a child severely after only a few hours.

Serious to fatal injuries involving ingestion of button batteries have risen nearly sevenfold from 1985 to 2007, Madigan reported.

"Not only are they small, but they get lodged in children’s throats,"Madigan said. "And unfortunately it's difficult to diagnose."

She and local doctors gathered for the announcement noted that often parents do not witness the ingestion and that symptoms — loss of appetite, irritability and vomiting -- can be hard to connect to the problem.

Adding to the difficulty is that the shiny objects are most likely to be ingested by children 4 years old or younger, who also represent 85 percent of the serious injuries and fatalities connected to the batteries.

This year 80 cases of button battery ingestion were reported in Illinois and 3,500 nationally. And while Illinois had no fatalities this year, 10 deaths have been associated with ingestion of the batteries nationally since 2008, Madigan said. All were children.

"That just shows the magnitude of this problem, and it's not going away because we are seeing increasing use of button batteries in electronic devices," she said.

Madigan called upon parents to look through the electronic devices in their homes to be sure that the batteries are in a secure compartment and that no spare batteries are within their children’s reach. She herself recently found a button battery on the floor in a playroom in her house after her children brought it home from a Halloween party, she said.

The Safe Shopping Guide is available at or by calling 1-888-414-7678.