Media Release: Be cool in the big freeze – Bitrex and CAPT urge caution to keep children safe as winter returns


WITH the UK on the brink of what may be another thermometer-breaking winter, Bitrex the bittering agent manufacturers and the Child Accident Prevention Trust have issued a timely reminder of the hazards of screen-wash and anti-freeze.

Both products are vital for safer winter motoring, but both liquids represent considerable hazards for everyone, especially inquisitive toddlers.

Says a spokesperson: “New figures reveal that last winter toxic alcohol and glycol, the active ingredients in screen-wash and anti-freeze, were responsible for 608 enquiries to the National Poisons Information Service.

“Children under-five were involved in 89 of those cases.

“Toxic alcohol and glycol are the active ingredients in screen-wash and anti-freeze. The incidents resulted in four fatalities and 238 incidents resulted in hospital visits.

“Both screen-wash and anti-freeze look extremely attractive, are usually a vibrant blue colour, and the sweet smell and taste would do little to discourage an inquisitive toddler.

“Anti-freeze is usually used once to top up the radiator and then the remaining liquid is left lurking in the garage or garden shed. Anti-freeze is a lethal liquid that causes kidney failure and is often sold in bottles without child-resistant tops.

“But screen-wash can be even more of a domestic hazard. In the winter months screen-wash is often kept handy in the kitchen or the back of the car for quick use on wintry mornings. It is also regularly decanted from large containers into handier recycled soft-drinks bottles. The popularity of concentrated screen-wash can add to this risk.”

The advice to parents is to keep screen-wash and anti-freeze out of sight and reach of young children, never decant it into alternative containers and to look for products containing a bittering agent like Bitrex, as the bitter taste makes any product very difficult for a child to swallow.

Katrina Phillips, chief executive of The Child Accident Prevention Trust, said: “Unfortunately, the very products designed to increase safety on the road in winter can be hazardous to small children.

“We’re reminding parents to keep screen-wash and anti-freeze where curious toddlers can’t find them, and to look for products containing a bittering agent like Bitrex.

“It tastes so bitter that children don’t swallow products that can harm them but spit them out instead.”

The spokesperson added: “The risks from anti-freeze are recognised across Europe.

“In countries like Austria, who generally experience more severe winters than the UK, it is illegal to sell anti-freeze without the addition of a bittering agent.”

Cameron Smith, Bitrex business manager, added: “Every year sees hospital admissions involving small children who have come upon an easily accessible bottle of intriguing liquid.

“Anti-freeze and screen-wash are a vital part of keeping safe in the winter, but it is very easy for parents to let their guard slip and relax their normal vigilance around dangerous substances.

“We’re keen to work together and with long-term partners like CAPT to encourage even greater awareness of child safety at this time of the year.

“We see Bitrex as the third line of defence. It doesn’t replace child-resistant containers and the safe storage of dangerous products, but it does give parents the reassurance of knowing that a moment of inattention needn’t lead to disaster.”



Ali O’Neale Cloudline PR  0131 553 8660/07889016094

Notes for Editors

Over the year, there was a total of 608 enquiries to the National Poisons Information Service involving toxic alcohols and glycols, relating to 488 individual  exposures.

Of these, 250 originated from non-hospital sources.

The vast majority of incidents (431) occurred in the home and most were acute ingestions. There were 89 cases involving children aged five years or less. Accidental exposures accounted for 328 cases, 119 were intentional exposures and four were described as recreational use.

Of the people involved, 409 had no or minor symptoms only at the time of the call and 71 had moderate or severe symptoms. The products most commonly involved were antifreeze and screenwash, surgical spirit and methylated spirits, ethylene glycol was the most common ingredient.

Denatonium Benzoate was discovered in 1958 by Macfarlan Smith and registered under the Bitrex trademark in the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA later the same year.

First used in denaturing alcohol – making it legally unfit for consumption – it is now added to a wide range of household cleaners, pesticides, and DIY and automotive products. Since being approved in the UK and US in the early 1960s, Bitrex has been officially recognised as the denaturant of choice in more than 40 countries.

UK sales began in 1960, and by 1963, customers included I.C.I, Rentokil and Avon Products. The first use of Bitrex simply as a taste aversive was in a cream to prevent tail-biting in pigs.Bitrex® has been used in a variety of applications since.

One of the main uses is as a human aversive.

Due to its overwhelming bitter taste, it is ideal for helping prevent accidental poisonings. Many supermarkets in the UK and Europe use the Bitrex® logo on their products as a selling point to their customers.

Child Accident Prevention Trust:

The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) is a leading charity working to reduce the number of children and young people killed, disabled or seriously injured in accidents.  It wants to see children leading active, healthy lives – not ‘wrapped in cotton wool’. It is the national organiser of Child Safety Week.

For more information, visit

The Child Accident Prevention Trust is a leading charity working to reduce the number of children killed, disabled or seriously injured by accidents, without ‘wrapping them in cotton wool’. Its re-vamped website,, features easy-to-follow safety advice for both professionals and parents, plus quizzes and puzzles to help both children and parents learn more about safety.

Ali O’Neale

mobile:07889 016 094

Cloudline PR
Mitchell House

4-5 Mitchell St



0131 553 8660

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Contact: Ali O'Neale
Phone: 01315538660