• The rates of battery-related injuries in kids increased in 2010-2019 from 1990-2009
  • As per data, the patients are getting younger and the injuries are getting more serious
  • Researchers said button batteries accounted for more than 80% of the injuries 

The rate of children having emergency department (ED) visits because of a battery-related injury significantly increased in the past decade than in the decade before that, researchers found.

For their new study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, the researchers had a closer look at the number of battery-related ED visits by children 18 years old and below in the U.S. from 2010 to 2019 compared to 1990-2009.

In total, they found that the rate of such injuries was 9.5 per 100,000 children annually from 2010-2019. By comparison, the rate was lower at 4.6 per 100,000 per year from 1990-2009.

This means that there was a "significant increase" in the rate of such injuries. In fact, it "more than doubled" compared to the decade before, Nationwide Children's Hospital noted in a news release.

Put another way, while there was one battery-related ED visit in children under 18 every 160 minutes in 1990-2009, this increased to one battery-related ED visit every 75 minutes in 2010-2019.

Much of such injuries affect younger children, with those five years old and younger comprising some 84% of the patients. The mean age of the patients also decreased from 3.9 to 3.2 years old, suggesting that the kids presenting such injuries may be getting younger, the researchers said.

Furthermore, the injuries may also be getting more serious, according to Nationwide Children's Hospital. This is because the rate of injuries that required "immediate hospitalization" also increased by 12% compared to 7% in 1990-2009.

Among the battery types, button batteries (BB) were "implicated" in 84.7% of the visits, the researchers said. These batteries also accounted for 84.5% of ingestions, marking an increase from the rates in the previous decade, although it was also similarly high at 83.8% from 1990-2009.

"BBs are often easy to remove...and can lead to devastating injury in as little as 2 hours after ingestion," the researchers wrote.

"Many ingestion events are unwitnessed, so making an early diagnosis is quite challenging," study co-author, Dr. Kris Jatana of Nationwide Children's Hospital, said in the news release.

The researchers did find decreases in the rates of overall battery- as well as BB-related injuries from 2017-2019. While it still was not considered statistically significant, they said it's possible that this "may signal the beginning of a downward trend" that may be attributed to changes approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2017.

These changes required toys using BBs to include warning labels informing about the risks, according to Nationwide Children's Hospital. However, this does not include other products that also use BBs. As the researchers noted, there are many other household items that use these batteries, such as digital watches, hearing aids and remote controls.

This year, however, the new "Reese's Law" will require the CPSC to "establish product safety standards with respect to batteries that pose an ingestion hazard." Furthermore, battery manufacturers have also "introduced features" such as child-resistant packaging and warning labels to prevent ingestions, according to the researchers.

"Unfortunately, past prevention efforts have yet to lead to significantly reduced injury rates," study lead author, Mark Chandler of Safe Kids Worldwide, the non-profit organization dedicated to preventing childhood injuries, said in the news release.

"Until secure battery compartment designs and ultimately a safer button battery technology are widely adopted by industry, these injuries in children will continue," Chandler added.

Button battery
Pictured: Representative image of a button battery. Saul/Pixabay