Thursday, September 22, 2011
7 News Investigations: Hidden Danger
There may be one in your TV remote or your watch, even in your children's toys. Those flat little button batteries are convenient, powerful and as we found deadly. 7s Lynn Martinez shows us this "Hidden danger."
WSVN -- It is happening all over the country kids swallowing these little lithium button cell batteries.
Dr. Jesse Reeves-Garcia-Miami Children's Hospital: "My partner just removed one last week. Another one three months ago. This is a serious issue."
These little batteries are found in everything from watches and toys to musical greeting cards and home electronics, and most parents don't even know they could be dangerous.
Susan Adongo-Samantha's Mother: "I didn't have any idea we could have such a thing in our house."
This now-corroded battery almost killed Susan Adongo's daughter, Samantha. She was playing with a remote, the battery popped out and she swallowed it.
This x-ray shows where it got stuck in her throat.
Dr. Mark Vecchiotti Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center: "When you see that line, that means battery"
And that means emergency.
These pictures taken during surgery show what was actually happening inside little Samantha. That battery was burning her healthy pink tissue black.
Dr. Jesse Reeves-Garcia-Miami Children's Hospital: "It could become life and death."
Samantha spent five days in a medically-induced coma so her throat could heal.
Susan Adongo-Samantha's Mother: "We almost lost her. We almost lost her."
But other parents weren't so lucky. In the past several years, 17 toddlers have died after swallowing these kinds of batteries. Once they're swallowed, the damage can begin almost instantly.
This battery is in the stomach. You can see it is already covered by acid material, and already rusting away right here. This white stuff, you can see an ulcer starting to form."
To demonstrate, doctors told us to put a battery into a hot dog and see what happens. Within seconds we could hear a crackling sound, and soon after the burning started to show.
The moisture in the hot dog like the moisture in your body actually creates an electrical current. After two hours, this hot dog was seared in the shape of the battery. The meat turned black after ten hours. Soctors say this is exactly what would happen inside your child.
Dr. Toby Litovitz, National Capital Poison Center: "Each case is absolutely devastating. Children who may never speak normally again, may never eat normally again."
When a child swallows this kind of battery some times they'll start choking and a parent will notice that instantly. Sometimes the battery just passes safely through the digestive system, but if the thin little battery gets lodged in the throat or esophagus kids can still breathe. In that case parents have no idea there's a problem.
Dr. Jesse Reeves-Garcia-Miami Children's Hospital: "If it's stuck in the esophagus it doesnt give you any warning until it starts making a hole then causing breathing problems, and then the child dies."
Up in Maine, 15-month-old Kacen Porter was drooling and coughing, his mom thought he was coming down with something.
Julie Navarro, Kacen's grandmother: "They had no idea he had swallowed it."
Kacen's mom didn't know something was seriously wrong until the little boy started crying uncontrollably a few days later.
That's when an x-ray showed he'd swallowed the battery from his favorite talking book. That battery had burned all the way through his esophagus. Kacen had to have five surgeries and until last month he was on a feeding tube.
Julie Navarro, Kacen's grandmother: "It happened just like that."
Across the country, at least 85 kids like Kacen have had major surgery after swallowing these batteries. That's why Miami Children's Hospital wants parents to be on high alert.
Dr. Jesse Reeves-Garcia-Miami Children's Hospital: "You need to be aware of what your child is putting in their mouth."
Before this hidden danger takes another life.
And the battery companies are hearing the warnings just this week. Energizer announced they will make their packaging more secure and try to get out warnings to parents. There's also now a call on capitol hill for a new law to require anything that contains these batteries be child safe so kids can't get at them.