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CU urges Congress to oppose the Antifreeze Bittering Act of 2005

December 5, 2006
The Honorable Joe Barton
Energy and Commerce Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable John Dingell
Ranking Member
Energy and Commerce Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Don’t Waive Accountability or Preempt State Laws
Please Oppose H.R. 2567, Re Bittering Agent in Antifreeze

Dear Mr. Chairman and Representative Dingell:
Consumers Union would like to join the chorus of voices who have spoken out in opposition to HR 2567, the Antifreeze Bittering Act of 2005. From our reading of the concerns expressed by a wide variety of organizations, we believe this legislation raises more questions than it resolves.
From a product safety perspective, it is certainly a laudable goal to add a bittering agent to a potentially toxic commercial product like antifreeze. However, even experts in the field – like the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center – say that there is no –“well-controlled published scientific research demonstrating that dogs can be consistently protected from poisoning through the addition of taste aversive agents, like denatonium benzoate.” ASPCA therefore has taken the position that this legislation is not “appropriate at this time.”
Secondly, there is the disturbing research indicating that the bittering agent that is effectively mandated under HR 2567, denatonium benzoate, is not biodegradeable. The research suggests that this bittering agent would pass through publicly-owned treatment facilities, and could reasonably be expected to contaminate groundwater and make it bitter. Concerns about denatonium benzoate’s toxic effects have been expressed by the Chemical Specialities Manufacturers Association and the American Water Works Association. The Food and Drug Administration also stated that some applications of this chemical are not “generally recognized as safe.”
Lastly, HR 2567 provides a liability waiver for antifreeze manufacturers using the bittering agent. We think it is bad public policy to provide sweeping liability waivers for use of any product that has the potential to cause damage to health or environmental harm. Such a waiver eliminates the manufacturers’ incentives to create safer products or warn the public about the product’s hazards, while leaving injured parties without remedies.
For all of these reasons, we urge you to oppose HR 2567, the Antifreeze Bittering Act of 2005.
Sally Greenberg
Senior Product Safety Counsel
Washington Office