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Blumenthal & Blackburn Introduce Legislation to Protect Kids from Ingesting Button Batteries

The bipartisan Reese’s Law, named in honor of 18-month-old Reese Hamsmith, will create stronger federal safety standards for products with button cell and coin batteries to prevent them from being easily ingested by children

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, introduced Reese’s Law to strengthen safety standards for products with button batteries. The bipartisan bill is named in honor of Reese Hamsmith, an 18-month-old child who died last year after ingesting a button cell battery from a remote control. Button batteries are frequently found in everyday items including cameras, calculators, battery-operated candles, flashing apparel, and even greeting cards. Blumenthal and Blackburn unveiled the legislation during a hearing earlier today with Reese Hamsmith’s mother, Trista Hamsmith, founder of Reese’s Purpose.

“Stronger safety standards for button batteries can prevent thousands of serious injuries—often requiring trips to the emergency room,” said Blumenthal. “Reese Hamsmith died tragically when she swallowed this small but deadly hazard found commonly in items around the house. Reese’s mom Trista powerfully turned her grief into advocacy to save others. This common-sense bill would require products with button cell and coin batteries to have clear warning labels and child-resistant battery compartments, helping save other families from experiencing the Hamsmith family’s pain.”

“Cheaply made and counterfeit products from overseas — especially from China — can directly threaten consumer safety,” said Blackburn. “Reese’s Law will encourage the industry to collaborate with the Consumer Product Safety Commission on solutions to protect kids and families from products that are so poorly designed they may be life-threatening. Especially during the Christmas season, product safety must be a priority.”

“In Reese’s hospital room there was a plaque that read ‘He has a plan and I have a purpose.’ Reese’s Purpose and my mission was born from this tragedy,” said Trista Hamsmith. “Every week I hear from parents who don’t know how dangerous these batteries are and how easily children can access them, especially during the holidays. Last year at this time Reese was fighting for her life. Now I fight to protect other children and families from this same fate. Reese’s Law is our opportunity to protect all the children who can’t - and shouldn’t have to - protect themselves.”

Small button cell and coin batteries pose a serious danger to young children and infants if swallowed, but many products with these batteries lack sufficient safety mechanisms. Button cell and coin batteries are used in toys, remotes, portable electronics, games, and many other products commonly found in homes and child care facilities. Swallowing button batteries can cause serious injuries or death for some children, including severe internal burns.

Reese’s Law will direct the U.S. 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 a consumer product containing button cell or coin batteries to be secured to prevent access by children six years of age or younger;
  • 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; and
  • Requiring warning labels that instruct consumers to keep new and used batteries out of the reach of children, and to seek immediate medical attention is a battery is ingested.

Reese’s Law was introduced by U.S. Representatives Robin Kelly (D-IL), Jodey Arrington (R-TX), and Ted Lieu (D-CA) in the House in September, and has been endorsed by a number of advocacy and consumer protection groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Consumer Reports, Kids In Danger (KID), and the Consumer Federation of America.

“It’s far too easy for children to access these batteries, and if they swallow them, they can be seriously injured or killed,” said William Wallace, manager of safety policy for Consumer Reports. “Families urgently need a strong law on the books that will force companies to put safety first. Congress should pass Reese’s Law to help keep children safe from preventable harm.”

“I applaud Senators Blumenthal and Blackburn for introducing Reese's Law which would create safety standards for button cell batteries to reduce accidental ingestion by children,” said Nancy Cowles, executive director of the nonprofit Kids In Danger (KID). “And also Reese’s family for pushing for measures that come too late for Reese. At KID, we hear all too often about severe injuries and death when a child ingests one of these ubiquitous batteries, often with their parents unaware the battery was even accessible. The requirements for child resistant packaging and compartments, along with warnings are vital to keeping children safe.”

“Button cell batteries pose serious and potentially fatal ingestion hazards to thousands of children each year,” said Rachel Weintraub, Legislative Director and General Counsel with Consumer Federation of America. “For far too long, effective solutions have not been implemented nor required to adequately protect children from this hidden hazard. We applaud Senators Blumenthal and Blackburn for introducing Reese’s Law which will require strong standards that will prevent these serious hazards in the future. We look forward to working together to make this bill law.”

The text of the legislation can be found here.

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