Antifreeze and Engine Coolant Being Bittered Nationwide

Industry agrees to voluntarily take steps to protect pets, wildlife and children

The Humane Society Legislative Fund and Consumer Specialty Products Association jointly announce an agreement to voluntarily add a bitter flavoring agent to antifreeze and engine coolant manufactured for sale for the consumer market in all 50 states and the District of Columbia  to prevent animals and children from being poisoned by the sweet-tasting liquid. Poisoning occurs because animals are attracted to the sweetness of antifreeze and engine coolant, which inadvertently spills in our driveways or is left in open containers in garages.

“This is a ground-breaking example of what’s right with Washington,” said Sara Amundson, executive director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “After years of battling over legislation addressing this important issue, the manufacturers of antifreeze and engine coolant have been working with animal advocates to pass state laws with mutually-agreed on language. Now, the Humane Society Legislative Fund applauds them for taking this important step to help protect our pets, kids and wildlife in every state.”

HSLF estimates range from 10,000 to 90,000 animals poisoned each year after ingesting ethylene glycol, the highly toxic substance used in auto antifreeze and coolant. Ethylene glycol’s sweet smell and taste make it attractive to animals as well as children. The manufacturers are adding bitter-tasting denatonium benzoate to antifreeze and coolant sold directly to consumers across the country.

“Partnering with the Humane Society Legislative Fund in passing these laws in 17 states has shown by finding compromise and working together we can develop sound public policy. It is vital that consumers continue to read the labels and follow label instructions on the proper use, storage and disposal of antifreeze.  Today, all major marketers are placing the bitterant in antifreeze in all 50 states,” said Phil Klein, executive vice president, legislative and public affairs for CSPA.


  • Seventeen states currently require the addition of the bittering agent to antifreeze and engine coolant: Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
  • Oregon passed the first state law and it has been in effect since 1991.
  • In one survey, two out of three veterinarians reported that they had treated at least one case of antifreeze/engine coolant poisoning each year.
  • One teaspoon of antifreeze or engine coolant can kill an average-sized cat.
  • Denatonium benzoate has been used in common household products and as an anti-nail biting formula for decades in the United States.


About HSLF

The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. On the web at

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3 Responses to Antifreeze and Engine Coolant Being Bittered Nationwide

  1. Del Myers says:

    When does this take effect in all of the states? Is there old antifreeze stiil on the shelves being sold? What should we look for on the labels of antifreeze to check them?

  2. Administrator says:

    Hi Del,

    Thank you for reaching out to us regarding this issue. This is currently taking place – the market leaders are already adding an aversive agent to ethylene glycol antifreeze sold in all states. There is no way for CSPA to know whether old antifreeze remains in any retailers’ inventory. Due to the seasonal nature of antifreeze sales, it is possible that some retailers may have antifreeze in their inventory that does not contain an aversive agent. All 17 states with requirements incorporated a sell-through provision that allowed antifreeze manufactured before a specific date to still be sold. Georgia’s law took effect most recently, and applies to antifreeze manufactured after July 1, 2012.

    Some manufacturers place a statement on the label that the product contains an aversive agent. Consumers may call the 800-number on any product packaging and provide the date code from the product packaging to inquire about whether a specific package contains bitter antifreeze.

    Regardless, consumers should not treat bitter antifreeze any differently than before. All warnings and label instructions should still be read and proper care should still be taken to ensure antifreeze is used, stored and disposed of in an appropriate manner.

  3. Susan Conti says:

    Wonderful news. This voluntary action also will eliminate the unnecessary deaths of wild animals who ingest the antifreeze that leaks from cars in parking lots and on roads. A few years ago, my family and I observed park rangers chasing away Bighorn Sheep in the parking lots of Glacier National Park; they had been attracted to the spilled sweet-tasting antifreeze. Of course the animals returned as soon as the rangers left.

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