MSPCA-Angell Press Release

Governor Signs Bill to Prevent Antifreeze Poisoning

July 20, 2010

Massachusetts becomes 13th state to adopt safety measure

Last night, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a bill targeted at reducing the ingestion of poisonous antifreeze and engine coolant by children and animals. The Humane Society Legislative Fund, The Humane Society of the United States, and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals commend Governor Patrick and the Massachusetts State Legislature for approving the measure that will save countless animal lives. The bill will take effect on January 1, 2011.

H. 4285 requires antifreeze and engine coolant to include a bitter flavor agent to prevent animals and children from being poisoned by the sweet-tasting liquid. Poisoning occurs because children and animals are attracted to the sweetness of antifreeze and engine coolant, which inadvertently spills in our driveways or is left in open containers in garages. The bill requires manufacturers to add bitter-tasting denatonium benzoate to antifreeze and coolant sold in the state. The bill was championed by Reps. John W. Scibak (D-Second Hampshire), Martin Walsh (D-Thirteenth Suffolk), and James Welch (D-Sixth Hampden), and Sens. Stephen M. Brewer (D-Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin), and Patricia D. Jehlen (D-Second Middlesex).

"The addition of a bitter agent to antifreeze and engine coolant is a common-sense solution to a serious safety issue for children and animals,” said the MSPCA’s Director of Advocacy, Kara Holmquist. “The MSPCA-Angell operates one of the world’s largest animal hospitals, Angell Animal Medical Center, and without question, we see the tragic consequences of ingesting these poisonous chemicals. Governor Patrick’s signature has ensured additional safety measures for the children and pets of Massachusetts.”

In a MSPCA survey, 67.9 percent of responding, licensed veterinarians in Massachusetts reported treating animals for antifreeze ingestion. Many veterinarians noted the high mortality rate and the speed at which antifreeze poisoning causes irreparable damage to the animals’ internal organs.

“An estimated 90,000 animals are poisoned each year after ingesting ethylene glycol, a highly toxic substance used in antifreeze and coolant,” said Sara Amundson, executive director of the HSLF.  "By passing this bill, Massachusetts is providing an additional tool to prevent antifreeze poisonings.”

The bill was also supported by the Consumer Specialty Products Association, the trade association representing antifreeze and engine coolant manufacturers, and the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association.

The other states where the HSLF has passed similar legislation are: Arizona, California, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. Similar legislation has been approved by the Illinois Legislature, and awaits the Governor’s signature. Bills are still pending in New Hampshire and Ohio.