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Personal emergency-response buttons worn around the neck present a potential choking hazard, warns a safety alert issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Between 1998 and 2009 there have been six or more reports of serious injury and death – three deaths in the U.S. and one in Canada – from choking that occurred when the Philips Lifeline Personal Help Button became entangled with other objects such as wheelchairs and walkers.

The emergency response button can be used 24-hours a day to summon help if someone falls, or has another emergency. According to the company, the device is used primarily by seniors living independently, who feel they are at risk for falls or other medical emergencies.

The button was designed to not break away when tugged, which prevents the button from falling off. However, because it does not break away, there is a risk of choking, including the possibility of serious injury and death.

The company is sending letters to all of its 750,000 customers in the United States and Canada and has updated labeling of the device to include a warning regarding the potential choking hazard.

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