A measure intended to prevent poisoning of children and animals by making antifreeze taste bitter has a good chance of becoming law, said the prime sponsor of the bill in the Senate.
The bill would apply only to aftermarket antifreeze sold in retail stores. It would not affect coolants in new vehicles or the drums of replacement fluids used by garages.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. George Allen, R-Va., said he usually resists putting more laws on the books. ``But this one just makes sense,'' he said.
The problem: Ethylene glycol, a component of antifreeze, has a sweet taste-and is poisonous.
At a Senate subcommittee hearing, witnesses testifying in favor of the bill included the leader of an animal welfare group and an executive of Prestone Products Corp., a leading antifreeze supplier.
Asked about the exemption of auto makers and dealerships from the measure, Mr. Allen said he will consider broadening its scope.
Members of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers don't have a position, said spokesman Eron Shosteck.
Jeffrey Bye, vice president of Prestone, said his company would be open to a requirement that a bittering agent be added to coolant sold in bulk to auto makers and garages. The preferred agent, denatonium benzoate, adds less than 3 cents to the $4 to $6 it costs to make a gallon of coolant, Mr. Bye said.
Prestone supports federal legislation because a hodgepodge of state laws would be a nightmare, Mr. Bye told the Senate subcommittee on consumer affairs, product safety and insurance.
Oregon, California and New Mexico require bittering agents in antifreeze. Other states are considering similar legislation, Mr. Bye said.
Sara Amundson, legislative director of the Doris Day Animal League, cited a study showing that as many as 10,000 dogs and cats are poisoned by antifreeze each year.
She said another study showed as many as 1,400 children ingest antifreeze annually, but most are treated soon enough to prevent death.