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Parents advocate for stricter safety standards after young girl died from swallowing button battery

Reese's Law would require secure battery compartments of a product containing button batteries and improved warning labeling and packaging.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — While Christmas is all about new toys for children, some of those toys come with hazards. Parents are advocating for stricter safety standards to help prevent what happened to one little girl around a year ago.

In October of 2020, Trista Hamsmith took her congested, stuffy 16-month-old to the pediatrician who said little Reese probably had croup. Soon after, Hamsmith said she noticed a button battery was missing from a remote control. After racing to the emergency room, doctors confirmed Reese had swallowed it.

"Seen or unseen, the damage happens right away," said Cristie Kidston, a Reese's Law advocate.

The toddler underwent several procedures to repair the hole the battery had burned in her esophagus.

"The tissue continues to erode and that's what happened in Reese's case," Kidston said.

Reese never recovered. She died on December 17, 2020.

Now, parents all over the country are sharing her story and others to show the dangers of button batteries found in household items like thermometers, calculators, remote controls, watches and toys.

"Kids are naturally curious and they're naturally going to want to open containers and see what's inside of things and what's inside of these are deadly," Kidston said.

Every year, more than 2,000 young children accidentally swallow button batteries, which can be deadly.

"The way that the charges are kind of dispensed from them, they can just cause a lot of damage," said Dr. Bryn Meredith, a CHI Memorial pediatrician.

But, they don't hold a monopoly on danger for little ones. Dr. Meredith said if your child has swallowed a button battery, a laundry pod, or magnets — immediately take them to the hospital.

"What can be a very normal situation, they can get really sick really quickly whenever those things start to do real damage," Dr. Meredith said.

He said when buying toys this holiday season, pay attention to labels.

"If you've got a 2-year-old or 3-year-old and you're seeing things that are for 6 years old and up, it may not be the right toy to give. There's probably a reason they did that and most of them are probably for ingestion reasons," Dr. Meredith said.

If the bill passes, the law would require secure battery compartments of a product containing button batteries and improved warning labeling and packaging.

The group is asking for support. To sign the petition, visit thechange.org.

This story was originally reported by WRCB.

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