Buying a bottle of Drano won't be the same in Illinois beginning Sunday.
A new state law requires customers purchasing products containing sodium hydroxide, or lye, and other corrosive chemicals to show a legitimate photo ID and to write their name, address and date of birth. And the store clerk will log the time and date of purchase.
Rather than looking at it as an intrusive measure, Illinois lawmakers said Friday they agree that regulating drain cleaners and other products is needed to protect the public from those who may use them to do harm.
"The fact of the matter is, there are evil people in the world who will abuse the most normal, everyday household products for sinister aims," Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, said.
That fear hadn't yet reached a few Quad-City hardware store managers contacted Friday, who think the law is mostly a nuisance.
"Now, we have to treat our customers like felons," Butch Trevor, owner of Trevor True Value in Moline, said.
"It's going to be a bother for people," Amy Whitcomb, manager of Handy True Value in Rock Island, said.
She has talked to her regular customers about the law and said the general reaction is, "What more control can the government have on us?"
According to the law, every retailer in Illinois that sells products containing substances regulated by the Federal Caustic Poison Act and product labels that read "causes severe burns" must maintain a registry of customers.
This includes grocery stores and discount stores that sell drain cleaner. Hy-Vee's assistant vice president for media relations, Ruth Comer, said Friday the grocery chain will comply with the law.
"Whatever we have to do, we'll do," Comer said, declining to comment further as she was not yet familiar with specifics of the law.
A business caught not maintaining a registry is fined $150 the first time, up to a third offense that carries a $1,500 fine.
"Do I like it? No. Do I have to comply? Yes," Trevor said. "Come Jan. 1 and your drain clogs and your wife sends you out for drain cleaner, you better have a picture ID with you, or you won't be able to buy it."
Chemicals being regulated include any corrosive or caustic acid or alkaline substance or any solution or mixture of corrosive or caustic acids or alkalis. Neither the Illinois House or Senate bills lists specific brands or products being regulated.
Drano, for example, is made of an alkaline substance - lye - which may cause chemical burns if exposed to skin. Other drain cleaners contain sulfuric acid, which also is highly caustic.
Alkaline batteries are not regulated.
Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, said incidents of people throwing acid on victims, including two in Illinois, prompted both chambers of the legislature to vote unanimously for the bill. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill into law Aug. 21.
"People are using this as a weapon," Jacobs said.
Plumbers are exempt from showing a photo ID, Rep. Donald Moffitt, R-Galesburg, one of the bill's co-sponsors, said.
"For people legitimately doing work that requires these types of chemicals, the bill is not meant to prevent them," Moffitt said.
For the average customer, Moffitt added, "It's sad we have to do this."
Law also aimed at meth production
Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, co-sponsored the bill as a way to crack down on methamphetamine, saying drain cleaners are among numerous household products used to manufacture the drug.
"I signed on because I saw the effect that regulating pseudoephedrine had on reducing meth labs," Verschoore said. "If we put one meth maker out of business, it's worth the extra paperwork."
Morthland said he was opposed to the bill at first.
"As originally written, it was too broad," he said. "It would have impacted sales for way too many products."
Morthland supported regulation after hearing testimony from burn victims.
"They're utterly disfigured," he said. "It's horrific."
He hasn't heard of any such incidents in the Quad-Cities.
After Sunday's enactment, local lawmakers expect to get an earful from constituents.
"It's too bad we have to come to this in this country," Jacobs said. "There was a time when we trusted one another."
Whitcomb said she's worked at Handy True Value for 20 years and hasn't seen anything out of the ordinary with regard to people buying drain cleaner.
"I haven't seen any suspicious characters," she said. "They're just average homeowners who come in and purchase a bottle one at a time."
Whitcomb said logging a customer's personal information may take a couple of extra minutes at the checkout line, but shouldn't be too time consuming.
Trevor said his hardware store has been in business 124 years by doing things "the right way," but added, "it doesn't mean I like some of the things I have to do.
"I'm sure my grandfather complained the first time he collected sales tax."