Toys, gifts, and thrifts – know the risks

media release

With Christmas around the corner and gift shopping well underway it is a timely reminder for parents and ‘gifters’ alike to keep kids in mind when shopping and know the presents which may pose a threat to small children.

Christmas gifts of all sorts, from the essential to the practical will influx into homes but many people are not aware just how many items pose a severe risk, particularly to children.

Cheryl Vardon, Principal Commissioner of the Queensland Family and Child Commission said families need to be aware that small powerful magnets and button batteries can be swallowed or inserted, resulting in catastrophic injuries and even death.

“Be aware and be vigilant. That is my message. More and more small electronics and gadgets are being powered by button batteries or contain magnets and can be easily accessed by curious children and pose a serious threat to their health,” Ms Vardon said.

“Christmas is a time to relax and enjoy with loved ones but with more than one child a month sustaining severe injury due to swallowing or inserting button batteries and a recent rise in the number of magnet related injuries we don’t want avoidable tragedy to strike.”

Button batteries and magnets are found in a wide range of items that may fall on your Christmas list from children’s toys, jewellery and bead sets to singing cards, electronic devices, and remotes for larger devices. While many people are on the lookout for accessible button batteries in toys, most button battery injuries are related to products that were not designed for kids at all.

Dr Ruth Barker, Emergency Paediatrician, warns that button batteries are a hazard throughout their lifecycle. Even spent button batteries can cause severe injury if swallowed.

“Button batteries are effectively landmines in our loungerooms. A 3-volt lithium button battery has a 10-year shelf life and can be ingested by an inquisitive child years after it entered the home. Parents think that they would know if their child has ingested a button battery, but the symptoms are very mild and non-specific. These kids look incredibly well until it is too late,” Ms Barker said.

Susan Teerds, CEO Kidsafe Qld, warned that Christmas is a time we see a lot of flashing objects like Santa hats and reindeer noses given to children and even babies.

“These gadgets are not built to the rigorous toy standard. Be extremely careful what you put in stockings, under the tree and use at parties. Most of the novelty flashing items are easily broken, exposing these deadly batteries to inquisitive kids,” Ms Teerds warned.

Small powerful magnets are marketed to older children and adults, but young children and teenagers are the ones most likely to be injured. The most serious injuries occur when multiple magnets are swallowed after being ‘mouthed’ or used as a fake lip or tongue piercing. As with button batteries it can be very difficult for parents to know their child has ingested magnets.

Queensland Health has developed tips that everyone can embrace to keep kids safe:

  •  Avoid using button battery powered products where there are alternatives.
  • If you must use a product powered by a button battery only buy/ distribute durable products that have a child-resistant locking mechanism for the battery compartment.
  • Keep button battery operated products out of reach of young children unless you are supervising use.
  • Regularly check products to ensure the battery compartment is still child resistant and the battery is not missing.
  • Dispose of used button batteries by covering both sides with sticky tape and either storing them in a child resistant container for recycling or disposing of them in the bin.
  • Make others aware of the dangers – spreading awareness will help everyone understand the danger of button batteries.


If you think your child has swallowed or inserted a button battery or magnet

  • • If your child is having any difficulty breathing, call 000 immediately.
  • • Contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for 24/7 fast expert advice and you will be directed to the nearest hospital or emergency service that can manage the injury.




Media contact – Queensland Family and Child Commission

Kirby Orr

0434 683 265