Congress passed a bipartisan bill named after a toddler who died after swallowing a battery. Reese’s Law, named after Reese Hamsmith, who died last year at the age of 18 months, strengthens safety standards for products with button batteries, commonly found in everyday items.
US Senators Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, and Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, introduced legislation nicknamed Rees’ Law in the Senate earlier this year.
“We are relieved that this common sense legislation passed Congress and is on its way to President Biden’s desk to become law so families can have more peace of mind about the safety of products in their home,” the couple said in the a press release after the bill passed in the Senate on Wednesday.
In 2020, Hamsmith swallowed a small, flat battery, called a button or coin cell battery, which is often found in household items such as cameras, calculators, flashing clothing and even greeting cards. “If swallowed, these batteries can pose a serious hazard to small children and infants and can cause serious injury, severe internal burns, or even death,” the news release states.
About a month later, he died after a long hospitalization.
The legislation would create performance standards that require these batteries to be insured, require warning labels, and require warning labels to clearly identify the risk 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 sign in Reese’s hospital room that said, ‘He has a plan and I have a purpose.’ Reese’s life was taken too soon, but her legacy will live on through this law so that no other family will have to suffer like ours,” he said.
Hamsmith announced the introduction of the legislation on Capitol Hill in September 2021. The bill was introduced in the House by a bipartisan group of representatives, where it was passed earlier this year.
After her daughter’s death, Hamsmith founded Reese’s purpose, an organization that advocates protecting children from hidden dangers and threats to their safety. 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 the saliva can set off an electrical current that can cause a chemical reaction. The esophagus can be severely burned in as little as two hours and can lead to death, according Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or CHOP.
If you suspect your child has swallowed a button battery, CHOP says to look for signs such as drooling, decreased food or drink, 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.
Don’t give the child anything to eat or drink or medicine to make them move their bowels or vomit, says CHOP. 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 in another area or change position and increase the risk of injury.”
To prevent this from happening, parents should know where these batteries are in their home and keep them away from children and spread the risk, CHOP says.