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New Australian laws on button batteries take effect today



Australian businesses will have to comply with strict new safety standards for button batteries under new laws which take effect today.

There will be fines of up to $10 million for businesses and $500,000 for individuals breaching the laws.

"These world-first standards are a critical step in helping prevent potentially life-threatening injuries to children," Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

READ MORE: Grieving mum calls on authorities to act after button battery deaths

"Tragically, three children have died and one child a month is seriously injured from swallowing or ingesting button batteries."

Under the new standards, products must have secure battery compartments to prevent children accessing the batteries. 

The batteries must be supplied in child-resistant packaging. 

Products and batteries also need to have additional warnings and emergency advice on the batteries, packaging and instructions, while suppliers must ensure products have been compliance tested.

The new laws were announced 18 months ago and Rickard said the ACCC had been working with businesses and suppliers to help them prepare for the new regulations.

When ingested or inserted, button batteries can burn through tissue and cause catastrophic bleeding.

READ MORE: Not being able to balance on one leg linked to earlier death, study claims

Button batteries have been known to cause serious injury within two hours or death within days. 

Symptoms may include gagging or choking, drooling, chest pain, grunting, coughing or noisy breathing, food refusal, black or red bowel motions, nose bleeds, spitting blood or blood-stained saliva, unexplained vomiting, fever, or abdominal pain.

The ACCC said it was calling on families to check for unsafe button batteries in their homes.

"Button batteries are found in a large number of common household items such as toys, remote controls, watches, digital kitchen scales and thermometers. If swallowed they can cause serious injuries to children," Rickard said. 

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