TRAGIC LOSS: Andrea Shoesmith remembers her daughter Summer who died five years ago after swallowing a battery.
TRAGIC LOSS: Andrea Shoesmith remembers her daughter Summer who died five years ago after swallowing a battery. John McCutcheon

'They're loaded guns': Mum's button battery fight rages on

A MOTHER'S fight against button batteries rages on five years after her daughter's tragic death which was the first of its kind in Australia.

Summer Steer's life was cut short in 2013 when she died from swallowing a 2cm lithium battery.

Her mother Andrea Shoesmith is determined to make sure the four-year-old's death was not in vain and has been raising awareness ever since about the dangers of batteries.

Summer was discharged from the Noosa Hospital twice on the day she died.

During Summer's first visit she was vomiting blood, but was sent home after 15 minutes with the doctor believing she had a bleeding nose.

After vomiting blood again while leaving, she was admitted for six hours and then discharged.

Two hours later, Summer was hospitalised again and doctors found the button battery during an X-ray.

She died after going into cardiac arrest following admission to the Brisbane Royal Children's Hospital.

Ms Shoesmith said the years since Summer's death had been hard for her and her 12-year-old son Finn.

"It's been tough, but our job now is to raise awareness and we're working hard to do that," she said.

Summer Steer.

Photo Contributed
Summer Steer tragically died after swall Contributed

"I don't think anyone knew it was much of an issue until Summer died."

Ms Shoesmith said 20 children were admitted to hospital each week after swallowing button batteries with many household items and toys containing them.

Car keys and garage door openers are common culprits and "anything that flashes", said Ms Shoesmith.

"A lot of the cheap toys have them in them," she said.

"It's something so cheap, it breaks and they fall out."

Every year, Ms Shoesmith holds Summer's Day on the last day of February at Tewantin State School where Summer attended to not only keep her daughter's memory alive, but educate a new generation.

"They're no longer allowed to have button batteries at the school," she said.

"The kids are very aware of it."

An inquest into Summer's death found the Noosa Hospital's reponse was "inadequate" and a coroner recommended safer batteries be developed that were harder to remove from products.

As a result, Ms Shoesmith said large companies like Woolworths, Coles and ALDI were following a voluntary code with the batteries being kept out of children's reach.

Products containing button batteries also require a "two-fold" access under the code.

But, Ms Shoesmith wants to see this code become law.

"Hopefully if I keep on keeping on with it, I think it will," she said.

"They're not just dangerous, they're deadly.

"The battery companies are handing out loaded guns and I think they should be more accountable."

Government reponse to battery safety

THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has made button battery hazards their priority, spurred on by the tragic death of a Coast girl.

Summer Steer died in 2013 at just four years old after she swallowed a lithium button battery.

Following her death, the ACCC enacted a voluntary code which large companies like Woolworths, Coles and ALDI now follow with the batteries kept out of children's read and products containing them to have two-fold access.

An ACCC spokesperson said battery button hazards were a 2018 priority and its national safety strategy would be extended until June 2019 to "consider whether the voluntary changes have been sufficient".

The results of this strategy will determine whether regulatory intervention is needed.

"There are some encouraging reports of better purchasing practices being introduced by responsible suppliers but we also have advice from paediatricians that admissions to emergency departments are continuing to occur," the spokesperson said.

"Without a national consumer product injury database a firm conclusion is difficult so the ACCC will be gathering all the available evidence in the extra year of the National Strategy."