Senate Commerce Committee Approves the Engine Coolant and Antifreeze Bittering Agent Act of 2005

November 17, 2005

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation today reported S. 1110, the Engine Coolant and Antifreeze Bittering Agent Act of 2005, by voice vote. Consumer Affairs Subcommittee Chairman George Allen (R-Va.) originally introduced the bill, which was co-sponsored by Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Co-Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) Consumer Affairs Subcommittee Ranking Member Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Committee Member John Ensign (R-Nev.).

The legislation requires engine coolant or antifreeze that is manufactured six months after the enactment of S. 1110 to include not less than 30 parts per million, nor more than 50 parts per million of denatonium benzoate (DB) as a bittering agent so as to render the coolant or antifreeze unpalatable.

Antifreeze’s sweet flavor is irresistible to most animals; however, it is lethal to animals even in very small doses. One of the most common ways for animals to come in contact with antifreeze is from a car that is leaking, or in the case of children, an accidental spill.

During the mark-up, the Committee adopted a Chairman’s Amendment offered by Chairman Stevens. The amendment, which was adopted by unanimous consent, does the following:

- requires the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to determine whether there is evidence of unreasonable adverse effects on the environment in Oregon and California from the use of the bittering agent DB in antifreeze. The evaluation is to be completed no later than 90 days after the enactment of S. 1110.

- allows the CPSC to initiate a rulemaking to substitute an alternative additive if it finds that that additive presents no unreasonable adverse effects on the environment and is as effective as DB in antifreeze, in terms of both its bittering capacity and its compatibility with automobiles.

- emphasizes that manufacturers and distributors of antifreeze, DB, and any alternative agent can still be held liable for any harm caused by their respective products, but the antifreeze industry would not be held liable for adding DB to antifreeze, serving as limited protection for a mandate placed on the industry. The bill now proceeds to the full Senate of its consideration.

Click here for the Stevens amendment