At least one child a month sustains a serious injury after swallowing a button battery, prompting safety standards aimed at saving lives.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar introduced the long-awaited mandatory safety and information standards on Monday.

This follows the death of three children from swallowing button batteries since December 2017.

At least 44 kids have also suffered severe injuries, some of them lifelong, following the ingestion or insertion of button batteries.

Toowoomba girl, Saphira, was flown to Brisbane after swallowing 20 button batteries at home. Photo: Lachie Millard
Toowoomba girl, Saphira, was flown to Brisbane after swallowing 20 button batteries at home. Photo: Lachie Millard

Under the new standards, secure battery compartments must be installed in consumer goods that contain replaceable button batteries to prevent children from gaining access.

Compliance testing will be conducted on all consumer goods with the batteries to prove they are secure and cannot be easily released.

Child-resistant packaging will also be established and products will contain warnings and information to alert consumers that a button battery is included with the product.

"Today's announcement is also a timely reminder in the lead up to Christmas of the dangers of button batteries and to remind parents to be alert to any that may exist in children's presents this year," Mr Sukkar said.

Mother Nikki Higgins and her son Tyler Welsh, who swallowed a button lithium battery.
Mother Nikki Higgins and her son Tyler Welsh, who swallowed a button lithium battery.

Amy Pereira, product safety campaigner for consumer advocacy group CHOICE, said it shouldn't be up to parents and families to test the safety of products in their homes.

"They should be able to trust that what they buy will not harm their loved ones," she said.

The new rules would help prevent further deaths and injury to young children in Australia, Ms Pereira said.

"Button batteries are harmful, commonplace items found in kitchen scales, thermometers, novelty toys and accessories, and can cause serious and irreversible injury or death when swallowed by children."

Industry will be given an 18-month transition period to implement manufacturing and design changes to products and packaging to ensure compliance with the new standards.

Originally published as Every parent's worst nightmare


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