What you may not know is that the chemicals that make up this salt has a huge impact on pets, wildlife, streams, rivers and the environment.
The primary chemicals used in road salt are sodium chloride, which is composed of 40 percent sodium ions (Na+) and 60 percent chloride ions (Cl-), ferrocyanide (which is used for anti-caking) and other impurities like phosphorus and iron.
These chemicals make their way into the environment through run off from melting snow and ice, and contaminat vegetation, soil, groundwater and storm drains that lead to our rivers, streams and ponds.
According to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, "...water contaminated with NaCl creates a higher water density and will settle at the deepest part of the water body where current velocities are low such as in ponds and lakes. This can lead to a chemical stratification which can impede turnover and mixing, preventing the dissolved oxygen within the upper layers of the water from reaching the bottom layers and nutrients within the bottom layers from reaching the top layers. This leads to the bottom layer of the water body becoming void of oxygen and unable to support aquatic life."
In addition the ASPCA incdicates that pets that ingest this road or sidewalk/driveway salt by eating it directly, licking their paws after exposure or by drinking snow melt in the vicinity of road salt run off can experience "drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, volcalizing/crying, excessive thirst, depression, weakness, low blood pressure, disorientation, decreased muscle function and in severe cases, cardiac abnormalities, seizure, coma, and even death.” And just small exposures of your dog's paws to road salt can produce painful irritations, inflammation, and cracking of the foot pads that can be prone to infection and are slow to heal.
What are the alternatives?
Around your home you can use a safer, healthier method to melt ice on sidewalks and driveways by using a product like Safe Paw. Not only is it healthier and safer for your dog, it will not deteriorate your sidewalk and driveway cement over time.
When out and about, keep your dog's paws safer by having them wear simple homemade dog booties and remove when you get home.
A few ideas for cities and towns:
De-icing of roads is very important to cities and towns to keep people safe. There are a few ways that city and town municipalities can create a safe, and yet healthier way to treat roads. These include:
In many cities, including in the more southern states, the use of sand helps individuals with more traction, without harming the environment and may be a great alternative in some situations.
Other salt alternatives
Experts recommend using calcium chloride over sodium chloride (rock salt) according to Environmental Canada. Calcium magnesium acetate is recommended as a much more environmentally friendly alternative according to the University of Michigan's Salt Use Improvement Team,
In 2014, the Netherlands installed the first every solar paneled bike path in an effort to help the environment. In addition, a company Solar Roadways created their solar roadway project in an effort to help the environment while preventing snow and ice accumulation.
NH Department of Environmental Services
University of Michigan
Green Ventures Canada
Photos courtesy of:
Nicholas A. Tonelli