Calls for faster action on button batteries ahead of review

Next year the Government will receive a review of our current product safety policy statement for button batteries.

And while we wait, the Australian federal government has already tightened its rules.

Button batteries are found in household items and toys, they're small and easy to ingest, and the outcome can be fatal.

What looks like an innocent children's book, could become a death trap. Button batteries make toys more fun until they're swallowed.

"They're a scary item to have around children. I feel that if I was to have one in the house and it was to get into his hands I would be frightened especially if he swallowed it," mother Kimberley Guy told Newshub.

As well as being a choking hazard, button batteries can burn a hole in the tissue of a child's throat in as little as two hours.

The Australian federal government is helping to prevent this by introducing stricter safety rules.

It follows one mother's tireless seven-year fight after her 14-month-old died from swallowing a button battery.

"I made a promise to her seven years ago I would change things and we wanted these laws and I fought to get them," she said.

In Australia all button batteries need to be in a secure compartment, packaging needs to be child-resistant, and have a warning. Manufacturers could face a fine of up to $10 million if they breach these rules.

Here in New Zealand, Starship says about 20 children are rushed to their emergency department each year because they've swallowed a button battery.

In 2018 the New Zealand Government put pressure on manufacturers and retailers to improve button battery safety.

Four years later and that policy statement's effectiveness at reducing harm is being reviewed. The Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs said the review's due to be received early next year.

But Guy wants stricter rules now.

"New Zealand really needs to be looking at what Australia's doing and taking cue from it and following suit," she said.

So children like 11-month-old Wuruhi Stoakes can play carefree.