Button Batteries

“It turns out this is one of the most damaging and dangerous things that my beautiful boy could have ever swallowed. It does not get much worse than this.” – Mother of an 8 month-old baby boy.

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Fidget spinners – a hidden hazard in the latest playground craze


Fidget spinners are the latest playground craze, with YouTube videos demonstrating how to do tricks with them attracting millions of views. There’s no doubt many children will be using the long summer holidays to perfect their fidget spinning skills.

But doctors have raised concerns about cheap fidget spinners with LED lights powered by small ‘button’ batteries, where the battery compartment is easily accessible to children. If swallowed, those button batteries may cause serious injuries.

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Lithium button batteries can be particularly dangerous as they are larger in diameter than other types and more powerful[1]. If ingested, they may get lodged in a child’s oesophagus (food pipe) and can cause serious internal burns within hours or even death within days.

Dr Rachel Rowlands, a consultant in children’s emergency medicine at Leicester Royal Infirmary, said:

“When button batteries touch wet surfaces, such as up the nose or down the oesophagus, they create a closed circuit and release their remaining energy. This then produces caustic soda which burns not only the area the battery is touching but the surrounding tissue too. The burning starts within a few hours, so you must attend A&E if you think your child has swallowed or inserted a button battery.”

Toy safety

Fidget spinners bought from reputable retailers should be safe. Toy safety regulations specify that a battery compartment should be safely secured with a small screw, or need two independent or simultaneous movements to open the battery compartment.

But cheap light-up toys bought online or from markets, discount stores or pop-up shops may not comply with safety regulations.

Some trading standards officers have now issued warnings to the public about light-up fidget spinners, while others have seized dangerous products and removed them from sale.

Updated safety advice

CAPT has joined forces with the British and Irish Portable Battery Association (BIPBA) to provide information and guidance on button batteries to parents and professionals working with children and families. We’ve now updated our safety advice to reflect this latest hazard.

Katrina Phillips, CAPT’s Chief Executive, said:

“Button batteries can be dangerous and corrosive if a child swallows them, with lithium button batteries a cause of particular concern. So it’s very worrying that the battery compartments in some light-up fidget spinners may not be secure. We’re encouraging parents to check that their children’s toys are safe and to buy from reputable traders”

Frank Imbescheid, BIPBA’s Chair, said:

“Used correctly, button batteries are an extremely useful feature of everyday life, powering many of our household essentials. However, if a child swallows a button battery it can cause serious injury. We encourage parents to remain vigilant when purchasing fidget spinners, particularly in the run up to the school holidays and keeping children entertained.

Our role as industry is to help raise awareness of these risks and we strongly encourage parents to only buy these toys from trusted retailers and to make sure the battery compartment is secured with a screw.”

Please help us spread the word

Safety partnership

Find out more about new CAPT’s partnership with the British and Irish Portable Battery Association. And look out for our forthcoming button battery fact sheet and session plan.

[1] Lithium ion button batteries (also known as ‘coin cells’) are typically higher in voltage (typically 3V) than other forms of small batteries and therefore considered more dangerous, although all small batteries pose a risk to children. Extra care should be taken with batteries that are 16 mm and larger in diameter as they are more likely to get lodged in a person’s oesophagus.

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