New potentially lifesaving legislation has passed the house and heads to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law this week. Reese’s Law would ensure that all items using button batteries are made childproof.
Button batteries, commonly found in household items like toys and remote controls, can pose serious risks to children if swallowed, including severe burns and death. Easily accessible to children and so small they don’t often pose a choking hazard, the inconspicuous nature of the battery can make it hard for parents to know if their child has swallowed one.
Reese’s Law is named after Reese Hamsmith, an 18-month-old who swallowed a button battery in October 2020. After an initial misdiagnosis of Croup (common in button battery cases), Reese’s mother, Trista Hamsmith, took her daughter in for an X-ray when they discovered a button battery missing from one of their devices.
Despite an emergency surgery to remove the battery, it had burned a hole through Reese’s throat and stomach, creating irreparable damage and setting off a chain of surgeries that would end in her passing in December 2020. After Reese’s death, Hamsmith founded Reese’s Purpose to raise awareness of the danger of button batteries and advocate for stronger safety measures on products that require button batteries.
Last year Hamsmith joined forces with other mothers and US Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn to get Reese’s Law off the ground. The law was passed with bi-partisan support on August 3. “Reese’s Law will help prevent thousands of serious injuries by strengthening small battery safety standards,” said Blumenthal and Blackburn in a press statement. “We are relieved this common-sense legislation has passed Congress and is on its way to President Biden’s desk to become law so families can have greater peace of mind about the safety of products in their home.”
In response to the law’s passing, Hamsmith expressed her gratefulness to Congress. “This legislation will undoubtedly save lives,” said Hamsmith. “I often talk about the plaque that was in Reese’s hospital room which read, ‘He has a plan and I have a purpose.’ Reese’s life was taken way too soon, but her legacy will live on through this law so that no other family will have to suffer like ours.”
According to the release, the new law will direct the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to create safety standards to prevent accidental ingestion of button batteries by children, including:
- Creating performance standards requiring the compartments of consumer products containing button cell or coin batteries to be secured to prevent access by children six years of age or younger
- Requiring button or coin cell packaging to be secured in a child-resistant manner
- Requiring warning labels in product manuals, on the packaging, and directly on the product when practical, so it is visible
- Requiring warning labels that clearly identify the hazard of ingestion
- Requiring warning labels that instruct consumers to keep new and used batteries out of the reach of children and to seek immediate medical attention if a battery is ingested
In the meantime, Hamsmith encourages parents to be vigilant about keeping items with button batteries out of the hands of children and ensuring all items are properly secured.