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Bills Aim To Prevent Poisonings

September 01, 2006

The U. S. Congress is eyeing a powerful bittering agent as a way to prevent thousands of annual child poisonings and tens of thousands of pet deaths linked to accidental ingestion of ethylene glycol antifreeze, according to a report scheduled for a recent issue of Chemical & Engineering News, the ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

Automobile radiator antifreezes and engine coolants that contain ethylene glycol are toxic, C&EN senior editor Cheryl Hogue explains in the article. They also have a sweet taste that leads to accidental poisonings. A few of licks, for instance, can be fatal to a cat or dog.

Antifreeze bittering bills pending in the House and Senate would require manufacturers to add denatonium benzoate (DB) to these ethylene glycol automotive fluids. DB has an intensely bitter taste and has been used in other consumer products for more than 40 years.

Although the legislation has garnered broad support, there are lingering doubts, Ms. Hogue points out. One is whether DB actually will discourage antifreeze consumption by pets. There also is concern that DB automotive fluids may find their way into drinking water supplies and make drinking water from some sources unpalatable.

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