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They are small, shiny, very dangerous, and you likely have several in your home. Button batteries power everything from toys to remote controls, and they are swallowed by more than 3,500 children in the United States each year.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, button batteries can harm a child if the battery gets caught in the ear, nose or throat. The batteries produce a charge even when they no longer can power devices and can injure tissue and can cause hearing loss if inserted in the ear canal. If swallowed and lodged in the body, they can cause significant injury within two hours – long before parents might realize what their child has swallowed – and can even lead to death.

Jonna Cooper, founder of The Ear-Resistibles, an Upstate play group for deaf and hard-of-hearing babies, knows these batteries all too well. Her daughter, Maggie, was born without an ear and an ear canal, leaving her completely deaf on one side. As a result, Cooper changes hearing-aid batteries an average of 30 times per month. She saw a news story about a man whose grandchild had swallowed a button battery that he left out. Sadly, the child did not survive. Cooper was spurred to action.

“It’s an unheard of danger that you don’t think about,” she said. “No one in their right mind would leave out a medication. They could swallow it and be injured or die. The same thing applies to these button batteries.”

Cooper is a former employee of Bryant Pharmacy and Supplies in Anderson. She contacted her former employer and asked for some medication bottles with child-resistant caps that could be used to store the batteries. Soon, she was on a mission. She made labels and began giving them out to families to ensure safe battery storage.

“In our family, I have old batteries,” she said. “That’s another thing I found out – that kids can find them in the trash can.”

Cooper uses two bottles in her house, one for new batteries and one for old ones. When the bottle of used batteries is filled, she discards the entire bottle.

Cooper stresses these batteries power far more than hearing aids. Car key fobs, watches, remotes, toys, cameras, Christmas ornaments, calculators, thermometers and small toys are all likely to be powered by them. They are commonly sold in blister packs, which are not child resistant.

“Everyone has these in their house,” Cooper said. “If a toy is smaller than a AAA, what’s powering it? Obviously, it’s a button battery. It’s a problem, but the awareness is a bigger problem.”

Cooper said parents just aren’t aware of the danger.

She advises using properly labeled, empty, clean medication bottles with child-resistant caps to store button batteries. Questions? Email the.ear.resistibles@gmail.com.

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