Congress has passed a bipartisan bill named after a toddler who died after ingesting a battery. Reese’s Law, named for Reese Hamsmith, who died last year at 18 months old, strengthens safety standards for products with button batteries, commonly found in everyday items.
U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, and Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, introduced the legislation nicknamed Reese’s Law in the Senate earlier this year.
“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,” the pair said in a news release following the bill’s passage in the Senate on Wednesday.
In 2020, Hamsmith swallowed a small, flat battery, called a button cell or coin battery, which are often found in household items like cameras, calculators, flashing apparel and even greeting cards. “If swallowed, these batteries can pose a serious danger to young children and infants, and can cause serious injuries, severe internal burns, or even death,” the news release reads.
About a month later, she died after a long hospital stay.
The legislation will create performance standards that require these batteries to be secured, require warning labels and require that the warning labels clearly identify the hazard of ingestion, among other things.
The legislation will undoubtedly save lives, Reese’s mother, Trista Hamsmith, said in a statement. “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,” she said.
Hamsmith announced the introduction of the legislation at the Capitol in September 2021. The bill was introduced in the House by a group of bipartisan representatives, where it passed earlier this year.
Following her daughter’s death, Hamsmith founded Reese’s Purpose, an organization that advocates to protect children from hidden dangers and threats to their safety. She created a Change.org petition to raise awareness about the issue and the legislation and urged people to call their representatives and ask them to pass the bill.
Button batteries, also known as lithium batteries, can get stuck in the throat when swallowed and saliva triggers an electric current which can cause a chemical reaction. The esophagus can be severely burned in as little as two hours and it could lead to death, according to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP.
If you suspect your child has swallowed a button battery, CHOP says to look for signs like drooling, decreased eating or drinking, difficulty swallowing, hoarse voice, vomiting, chest pain or discomfort, abdominal pain, blood in saliva and stool and sudden crying.
If you think your child has swallowed a battery, they should be taken to the emergency room immediately.
Do not give the child anything to eat or drink, or any medications to make then move their bowels or vomit, CHOP says. Milk will not prevent further injury.
“Do not attempt the Heimlich maneuver, even if you saw your child swallow the battery,” they advise. “The battery could get stuck another area or change its location and increase the risk of injury.”
To prevent this from happening, parents should know where these batteries are in their home and keep them out of reach from children, and spread the word about the risk, CHOP says.