Parents warned over 'potentially deadly' new Apple device

·3-min read

Australia’s consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has urged parents to keep their Apple AirTags away from children amid battery consumption fears.

The Bluetooth tracking devices used to find lost keys or wallets are powered by lithium coin cell ‘button’ batteries, the ACCC said in a media release on Monday.

There are fears children can easily access the battery compartment, remove it and consume it, the ACCC said.

Three children have died and 44 have been severely injured by button batteries in Australia. They can become lodged in throats or cause chemical burns.

Also, the organisation said the AirTag battery compartment lid does not always fully close, despite a sound being emitted suggesting the lid is secure.

The Apple AirTag, as seen in this still image from the keynote video of a special event at Apple Park in Cupertino. Source: AAP
Australia’s consumer watchdog has urged parents to keep their Apple AirTags away from children amid battery fears. Source: AAP

“We were also concerned that the outer product packaging does not have any warning about the presence and dangers of button batteries, and we note that Apple has now added a warning label to the AirTag’s packaging,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“However, this alone does not address our fundamental concerns about children being able to access the button batteries in these devices.”

The ACCC said it has raised the issues with Apple and discussions are ongoing.

“As a safety precaution, we urge parents to keep AirTags away from their children,” Ms Rickard said.

“We know that small children can be fascinated by keys and love playing with them, so there is a risk that they could access this product, which is designed to be attached to a key ring, among other things.

“We are aware several large retailers, including Officeworks, are currently not offering the AirTag for sale because of concerns about button battery safety.”

Apple says the AirTag is “designed to meet international child safety standards … by requiring a two-step push-and-turn mechanism to access the user-replaceable battery”, according to the ACCC.

The company says it is also “working to ensure that products will meet or exceed new standards, including those for package labelling, well ahead of the timeline required”.

An Apple Store on Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street in Shanghai, China. Source: AAP
There are fears children can easily access the battery compartment, remove it and consume it, the ACCC said. Source: AAP

Button batteries can kill within days

The small lithium batteries are found in millions of consumer goods worldwide, including remote controls, toys, watches and kitchen items.

If ingested or inserted into the ear or nose, the batteries can cause serious injuries within hours and possibly death within days, the ACCC said.

“When lodged in the body and in contact with bodily fluid, button batteries can burn through tissue and cause catastrophic bleeding,” the watchdog said.

Symptoms can include gagging, choking, drooling, couching, chest pain, noise breathing, refusing to eat, nose bleeds, blood-stained saliva, black or red bowel motions, unexplained vomiting and fever.

“Keep new and used button batteries out of sight and out of reach of small children at all times – even old or spent button batteries can retain enough charge to cause life-threatening injuries,” the ACCC said.

If a child is feared to have come into contact with a battery, the Poisons Information Centre should be contacted at 13 11 26.

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