Victoria, British Columbia – British Columbia has become the first Canadian province to legally require the addition of a bittering agent to antifreeze and engine coolant sold in the province. The bitter taste is intended to prevent animals and children from ingesting the toxic fluid.

Bitter antifreeze is also mandated in Washington State, Oregon, and California. The B.C. regulation will take effect January 1, 2011.

“The sweet taste of antifreeze is a major reason for the accidential, often fatal ingestion of toxic antifreeze by pets, wildlife and young children,” said Environment Minister Barry Penner. “By making it mandatory to add an extremely bitter substance to the product, we will make it less appealing, reducing its likelihood of being consumed in significant quantities.”

The B.C. government has mandated the addition of denatonium benzoate to ethylene glycol antifreeze sold at the retail level in the province. Known by the trade names Bitrex or Aversion, it is the bitterest chemical compound known to date, and is used effectively in human and animal taste behaviour modification products, such as nail-biting remedies and anti-chewing products for pets. Bittering agents have also been used to prevent accidental poisionings from some toiletries, household cleaners and pesticides.

The bittering agent will lessen antifreeze’s appeal, but not its toxicity, and individuals should still take personal responsibility for the proper handling, storing and disposal of any antifreeze products or waste. Denatonium benozate will not impair antifreeze performance and will not have any effect on vehicle warranties.

For more information on proper antifreeze disposal, call the Recycling Council of British Columbia’s Recycling Hotline at 604-732-9253, or 1-800-667-4321.

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