TMA Letter on SB 1301: Antifreeze Poisoning

House Public Health Committee
Senate Bill 1301 by Sen. Robert Deuell, MD
Written Testimony
May 18, 2011

The Texas Medical Association (TMA) is a strong supporter of childhood injury prevention efforts. That is why the nearly 45,000 physicians and medical students of the Texas Medical Association support Senate Bill 1301 by Sen. Robert Deuell, MD. We believe that requiring a bitter-tasting substance be added to antifreeze products that contain the toxic substance ethylene glycol would better protect Texas children.    

Unintentional poisoning is a serious public health concern for people of all ages, but especially children. Each day, nearly 82 people die in the United States from unintentional poisoning, and another 1,941 are treated in emergency departments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of all poisoning reports occur among children younger than 6 years of age, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). In 2009 alone, AAPCC tallied 485 reports of children 6 and younger having been poisoned by products containing ethylene glycol.  

Many common items in homes today are poisonous to children. These include cosmetics, cleaning products, and pain medicines. However, antifreeze is one of the most dangerous poisons found in the home. Antifreeze poisoning is extremely dangerous; it can cause blindness, brain damage, and even death. 

The American Medical Association and TMA believe having a comprehensive strategy to protect children from poisonous substances is important. It should include a requirement for private industries to label household chemicals clearly to inform parents of their danger, and package them to deter children. Texans also must be able to depend on the expertise and 24-hour availability of an accredited poison control system. Parents, physicians, and other health care professionals who respond to poison emergencies must be trained properly.  

Adding aversive agents to products such as antifreeze to prevent poisonings is an important step to deter children from ingesting the poisonous products. SB 1301 would help establish an industry standard that would help Texas consumers when they purchase any product containing this hazard toxin. As other states pass similar legislation, this bill would become part of a consistent national prevention strategy.  

These bitter-tasting substances, however, should not replace current poison prevention strategies. Instead, adding them should work in conjunction with current components of Texas’ comprehensive approach to poison prevention. Thank you for the opportunity to comment, and thank you for bringing poison control and prevention to the forefront.

82nd Texas Legislature Testimonies