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Haley Ham Law takes effect Jan. 1; requires bitter flavor added to antifreeze

8:15 PM, Dec 29, 2009   |    comments
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A new Tennessee law takes effect Jan. 1 that requires antifreeze manufacturers to include a bittering agent to prevent animals and children from accidentally consuming the toxic fluid.

Haley Ham of Sevierville began pushing for the legislation in 2007, when she was 11 years old.  Ham's two dogs, Sam and Jesse, were intentionally poisoned with antifreeze.

"This is the finish line. I'm just glad it is finally going to take effect," said Haley.  "I mean it was really quite ridiculous. It was only a few cents more [to make antifreeze taste bad] and it could save a whole bunch of lives. There are just some things that are common sense."

Antifreeze has a sweet smell and flavor to animals if it does not include a bittering agent.  According the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, an estimated 10,000 animals are poisoned and approximately 1,400 children ingest ethylene glycol each year in the U.S.

"Historically, it is a major problem.  It kind of comes in waves and is a bigger problem in colder climates," said Joe Burtges with the UT College of Veterinary Medicine.  "The sweet flavor entices animals to continue consuming it. The liver breaks it down into even more toxic substances, and it eventually causes kidney failure after a few hours."

Do not expect the new bitter flavored antifreeze to dominate the shelves at your local store on New Year's Day.  Retailers are allowed to sell the old antifreeze without the bittering agent as long as it was manufactured before 2010.

Once the old antifreeze is completely phased out, Burtges said the new law should have a substantial impact.

"I think we will see fewer cases. Adding a bitter flavoring agent to the antifreeze hopefully will make it almost zero.  It would have to be very malicious as far as an animal or child ingesting it and less likely to be accidental," said Burtges.

Ham said she hopes the new law will save lives and her efforts will demonstrate to others that anyone can make a difference.

"It doesn't matter where they come from or how young they are," said Haley.  "They can always do whatever they feel is right."

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