Man finds solution for children's throat-burning button battery injuries

Industrial designer Jeongbin Ok has found a potential solution that could prevent children from suffering button battery injuries.

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In Auckland’s Starship Hospital alone, 20 kids are admitted each year with button battery injuries. Source: Seven Sharp

The Wellington-based academic has created a dye formula that forces children to spit out the battery instead of swallowing it if curious youngsters put it near their mouth.

The easily accessible button battery can be found in toys which some children have gotten hold of and swallowed, causing their throat to seriously burn.

Auckland Starship Hospital takes up to 20 cases a year and immediate action is needed, often resulting in surgery.

Mr Ok told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp, "If it could reduce even a small portion of the number of victims that would be great, that was a dream."

He explains his light bulb moment as he witnessed a kid who’s mouth had red stains, most likely to be tomato ketchup.

"What if I add something to the battery and if it stains the oral area, it could give a visual alert to caregivers."

As Mr Ok developed the invention, it was decided that red wasn’t to be the go-to colour.

He claims the dye would appear to look like "vomiting blood" which he says can be "traumatising" for parents.

The now-blue coloured dye is mixed with feral flavourings, creating "the worst taste you can imagine".

The phenomenon has caught the attention of battery giant Energizer, but Mr Ok says, "we'd like to see intervention from the government and regulators because it is quite hard to rely on the goodwill of manufacturers."

"Manufacturers are basically wanting to make more money."

MBIE spokesperson Brendon Noon says, "if it has international applications, absolutely looks like it does, it'd be fantastic to see it go across the world, it's Kiwi innovation at its best."

Jeongbin is solely focused on saving the lives of children and preventing a parent’s nightmare.