New Hampshire Moves to Make Antifreeze Less Dangerous to Pets

Several years ago a California state legislator made news with a gimmick. He invited school children in his Bay Area district to enter a contest through his office. Each entrant would draft a desired state law. The winning entry would be submitted to the state legislature for a vote.

When I first heard of the contest I thought it was silly. But the winning entry was brilliant. It required that antifreeze sold in California be made to taste bitter. The bill was submitted to the legislature, where it passed. Later it was signed into law.

The result has been a dramatic decrease in antifreeze toxicity in pets (and, I imagine, children) in California.

Antifreeze contains a compound called ethylene glycol. This chemical has a sweet odor and taste. It is attractive to pets and children.

When it is consumed, ethylene glycol initially causes the poisoned individual to feel drunk. However, the body metabolizes the chemical into products that clog the kidneys and lead to kidney failure. Ethylene glycol is one of the most toxic chemicals in common use.

Several other states now have laws similar to California’s. These include Virginia, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Arizona, Tennessee, and Maine.

And, if the New Hampshire House of Representatives gets its way, that state will be next to join the list.

That, of course, is good news. But I have to wonder why this simple, common sense proposal is spreading slowly state-by-state rather than through federal action.