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Dangerous Button Batteries 'Landmines In Loungerooms', As Kids Choke And Die

A leading emergency paediatrician has urged the Prime Minister to "get off his arse" and take action on button batteries, a choking hazard for children.

Dr Ruth Barker, from the Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit, made the fired-up call for action on Wednesday. She is tired of seeing children present to hospital after swallowing the tiny items, found in a variety of household goods, gadgets and toys.

"The solution is stopping it in the first place by not buying button batteries, or making it more difficult to stop kids accessing them," she told 10 News First.

Photo: Getty

At an event in Canberra, heartbroken mothers Allison Rees and Andrea Shoesmith held photos of their daughters, who both died after the batteries burned through the toddlers’ windpipes when they swallowed them.

"A button battery took my daughter away from me. Something needs to be done about safer products containing button batteries, " said Shoesmith.

Her daughter Summer died in June 2013, aged just four-and-a-half years old.

Allison Rees and Andrea Shoesmith lost their daughters Bella and Summer after they swallowed button batteries. Photo: AAP/Choice

"They're everywhere. They're in the grandparent's home, the aunt's, the uncle's, the neighbour's," she said.

When swallowed, saliva converts the battery into sodium hydroxide -- essentially oven cleaner, which can cause caustic burning.  However, it can be missed by medical professionals, with the mums saying their children were repeatedly misdiagnosed by emergency departments.

"Those children are walking dead until you pull that battery out, and even after you pull the battery out, it still keeps eating through the tissue," said emergency paediatrician Barker.

"These products look really innocuous, but they are landmines in our lounge rooms."

Photo: Getty

Kids Safe, along with consumer watchdog Choice, want the government to introduce new legislation to warn buyers, and make it illegal to sell dangerous products.

"It's taking too long. Do we need more children to die before we get traction on this?" said Kids Safe CEO Susan Teerds.

In March this year, the government issued a safety warning notice, advising the public about the dangers of button batteries. The government has committed to a review by year’s end, but advocates fear it could take years before new laws are introduced to address the issue.

"We have a simple ask for Australia's politicians, that is to install a simple rule that says it should be illegal to sell a product that's unsafe in Australia, " said Alan Kirkland, CEO of Choice.