On cold winter days, antifreeze is crucial to keeping your car running, but that innocuous-looking liquid can be deadly.
Don't expect its sweet taste to give that away.
In 2008, 241 Georgians were poisoned by antifreeze, said state Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), who has proposed legislation to require that a bitter-tasting chemical -- denatonium benzoate -- be added to antifreeze sold in the state beginning in 2011.
The Georgia House this week quickly approved Benton’s proposal 142-25, sending House Bill 219 to the Senate. Ten states have passed similar laws.
A former teacher, Benton said he was moved to propose the legislation by a student, whose dogs had been poisoned, and by the case of Lynn Turner, who is serving two life sentences for using antifreeze to kill her Cobb County police officer husband and, several years later, her boyfriend, a Forsyth County firefighter.
By some estimates, 10,000 to 90,000 animals across the nation are poisoned annually by the substance.
“When personal safety is involved, you have to ask manufacturers to do things they have not done in the past,” Benton said. “All a child has to do is roll a toy through some radiator boil-over and get antifreeze in their mouth, and you have a tragedy in the making.”
Benton said adding small amounts of the chemical denatonium benzoate would deter children, pets and wildlife from consuming antifreeze by making it repulsively bitter. The additive, he said, would add about 3 cents a gallon to the cost of the coolant.
Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, a chemical with a sweet smell and taste, which is attractive to children, pets and wildlife. Drinking ethylene glycol will result in depression followed by heart and breathing difficulty, kidney failure, brain damage and even death.
Benton had bipartisan support for the measure in the House, and it is backed by several pediatric and animal-protection groups.
Some lawmakers, however, argue the state has no business restricting products that simply have the “potential” to harm.
“That should be a market decision,” said state Rep. Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta), who voted against the bill. “It’s not a proper use of the state’s power.”
Virginia, New Jersey, New York, California, Tennessee, Maine, New Mexico, Vermont, Washington and Oregon have passed laws requiring bad-tasting substances to be added to antifreeze.
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