Chemical Burns From Batteries

By June 30, 2017Burn Injuries

Small batteries are everywhere; they fuel our t.v. remotes, our flashlights, and our children’s’ toys. But we often forget about the chemicals contained inside these batteries, and the injuries battery chemicals can cause.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that almost 4,000 people each year suffer battery-related chemical burns that require emergency treatment. About 20% of these injuries occur in children under the age of 16.

Batteries can rupture and cause chemical burn injuries when:

  • Different types of batteries are mixed together. Mixing different types of batteries, like carbon-zinc batteries with alkaline batteries, can cause batteries to overheat and break. Use a complete fresh set of batteries instead of replacing a single battery. Even different brands of the same type of battery can result in overheating and rupture.
  • Batteries are inserted incorrectly. Mismatching the + and – (positive and negative) signs can cause batteries to rupture and leak. Do not let children put batteries in devices, have an adult assist.
  • Un-chargeable batteries are placed in chargers. Some devices come with battery chargers and re-chargeable batteries that you can re-use in the device. Regular batteries cannot be recharged, and attempting to charge them can cause the batteries to overheat and rupture.
  • Batteries are not properly stored. Batteries should be stored in cool, dry place. Batteries that are exposed to heat or water can rupture.
  • Batteries are left in an inactive device for too long. Batteries left in devices that are not being used can rupture due to age. If you are not actively using a device that requires batteries, remove the batteries.

When a battery is ruptured, battery acid will leak out of the battery as a liquid or as a white, crystallized substance that sometimes forms at the ends of old batteries that have been left in devices for too long.

The composition of battery acid is different based on the construction of the battery. Alkaline batteries (the type of batteries used for AA and AAA batteries) contain potassium hydroxide, a substance that can cause chemical burns as well as health problems.

Chemical burns can also occur when batteries in small, wearable devices rupture, usually because of water or moisture that seeps into the battery.

Some Fitbit users complained of rashes after wearing the devices. The company attributed the rashes to allergic reactions to the materials in the wristband, but studies by CPSC scientists have led to a theory that moisture from sweat can enter the device and create toxic chemicals like sodium hydroxide when it interacts with the batteries. The CPSC has not confirmed these results.

Sodium hydroxide is the same chemical that is used in Drano to eliminate clogs. This chemical can be released at high concentrations from batteries in wearable devices. The rash-like symptoms of Fitbit users could actually be minor chemical burns.

There have also been reports of children suffering severe burns from batteries in wristwatches that leaked onto skin.

Burn Injury Attorneys

If you or a loved one has suffered a burn injury from a dysfunctional battery, call the attorneys at Walker Morgan to schedule a free consultation.

Will Walker

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