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December 23, 2003

For More Information, Contact:
Daryl Savage at (650) 688-6384


PALO ALTO – A new law takes effect January 1 to prevent accidental poisonings of children, pets and wildlife in California.

The law, authored by Assemblyman Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) requires a bittering agent to be placed in antifreeze when it’s sold in California. Antifreeze has a sweet taste and poisons scores of children and tens of thousands of pets and wildlife every year. By adding a bittering agent to antifreeze, the bill is designed to improve consumer safety and reduce the number of accidental poisonings.

“The idea came to me from a constituent as part of my ‘There Oughta Be a Law’ Contest,” said Simitian. “The suggestion for the bill was particularly compelling because the Ward family of Cupertino had recently lost a pet to antifreeze poisoning. Then we discovered that children, as well as pets and wildlife, are often the victims of anti-freeze poisoning. This is the type of unfortunate accident the new law is designed to prevent.”

Lauren Ward, a Cupertino resident, submitted the antifreeze bill idea to Simitian in response to his ‘There Oughta Be a Law’ contest. Ward said, “I had contacted just about every local elected official I could think of with no result. When I heard about Assemblyman Simitian’s contest, I decided to give it one more chance. I was impressed Joe called me himself to tell me he would be introducing my idea as a bill. This bill is an important step in making our environment safe for kids and animals.”

“If you walk into an automotive store on January 1, the jugs of antifreeze may look the same,” observed Assemblyman Simitian, “but there will be one important difference – a bittering agent designed to prevent the poisoning of scores of children and thousands of pets and wildlife. For just a few pennies per container, we’ve reduced the likelihood that parents and pet owners will have to face the gruesome results of accidental poisonings that result when kids and animals ingest antifreeze,” concluded Simitian.

California Poison Control Services reported that in 2000, 66 children age 12 and under were the victims of accidental poisonings resulting from ingesting antifreeze.  One antifreeze manufacturer, Sierra Antifreeze, estimated that nationwide 90,000 pets and animals die each year from ethylene glycol-based antifreeze.

The new law was passed in 2002, but implementation was delayed for one year to give anti-freeze manufacturers and distributors time to make the change.