Antifreeze Sold In Oregon Will Be Too Bitter To Drink

PORTLAND - One woman's crusade to make poisonous antifreeze too bitter to drink finally has ended in success.

A law that went into effect yesterday requires that manufacturers of antifreeze put a bittering agent in the products they sell in Oregon.

Lynn Tylczak of Albany, a 39-year-old writer-turned-consumer activist, has spent six years on her fight to prevent children from being poisoned by the sweet liquid.

"This is the first step," she said. "We've done Oregon, but there are millions of kids across the country that deserve the same protection that the kids in Oregon now have."

Antifreeze, which contains ethylene glycol, is highly toxic and tastes sweet, which can make it attractive to small children and animals.

In 1993, the Oregon Poison Center reported 111 people had ingested ethylene glycol, at least 27 of them children. The center does not know if any of the poisonings proved fatal.

"This is something that inherently makes sense: If something is bad for you it should taste bad," said Tylczak, a mother of two.

Tylczak's efforts began in 1989 when she saw a news item reporting that British companies were adding Bitrex - a brand name for denatonium benzoate, known as the world's most bitter substance - to some household products.

She began sending letters to manufacturers and public officials asking that U.S. companies add the bittering agent.

In 1991, the Oregon Legislature passed a law requiring

antifreeze sold in the state to contain the bittering agent.

The antifreeze industry tied up enforcement of the law in court, saying it wanted to be protected from any potential lawsuits from people who claimed they were harmed by the additive.

The industry's opposition ended with the Oregon Poison Prevention Task Force pledge to support legislation that would give manufacturers immunity from product-liability lawsuits.

Senate Bill 317, which does just that, passed the Oregon House 58-0 on April 12. Gov. John Kitzhaber signed it Thursday.