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The Hidden Dangers of Road Salt

By treenadmin, 12/14/2017 - 10:31

Winter is upon us and the temperature is dropping, leaving us with black ice, inevitable icy roads, sidewalks and driveways. Naturally, to prepare for the worst, we often pick up the cheapest brand and use a bounteous amount of road salt to ensure the safety of both pedestrians and drivers. According to Statistics Canada, on average, 5 million tonnes of road salt is used each year as a de-icer on roadways in Canada. However, do we know the environmental consequences of this frugal spending?


What are Road Salts?

Road salts; de-icers are typically made up of chloride salt such as sodium chloride (NaCl), calcium chloride (CaCl2 ), magnesium chloride (MgCl2) and potassium chloride (KCl). Some de-icers are also made of Acetates such as Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMAc), Potassium Acetate; and some are blends. When it comes down to brass tacks, the majority of de-icing products are blends of the aforementioned compounds (Foothills Landscaping, n.d.). Road salt works by lowering the freezing point of water by breaking its component ions into a small amount of liquid water. The added particles of road salt make it more difficult for the water to freeze into ice, lowering the freezing point of the water. So, for road salt to work, there needs to be a tiny bit of liquid water (Chemical Composition of Road Salt and How It Works, 2017).   


Road Salt and the Environmental Impact


"A comprehensive five-year scientific assessment by Environment Canada determined that in sufficient concentrations, road salts pose a risk to plants, animals and the aquatic environment." (Statistics Canada). As snow melts, road salts dissolve in water and seep into the soil, groundwater supplies, lakes and streams. As a result, salinity levels increase in freshwater which affects drinking water supplies for humans and wildlife. As concentrations of chlorides surpass the tolerance levels of freshwater aquatic organisms, it causes problems with their reproduction and ability to sustain in their changing habitat. A sudden drop or rise in the magnitude of salinity can be detrimental to species and the entire freshwater population (The Baltimore Ecosystem Study Virtual Tour).


Furthermore, the salt residue from many ice melters causes permanent damage to concrete, asphalt, pavers and metal light fixtures as chlorides resist break down in the environment. Chloride also erodes soil which in turn affects vegetation. When calcium chloride comes in direct contact with the skin, it has the potential to cause burns in humans and animals. It also affects respiratory and liver functions if consumed. As a result, it is hazardous for pets as they are likely to come in direct contact with chloride-based de-icers by walking on the solid particles or melted snow, or by consuming the product.


The Solution!

Arctic ECO Green® Icemelter is a powerful all natural de-icer that is gentle on the environment, the surfaces it is applied to and harmless around children and pets. The product does not contain any calcium chloride so it will not burn the paws of pets as they walk on it. It is WHMIS exempt in Canada and OSHA exempt in the USA.


Arctic ECO Green® Icemelter is dyed a bright green colour. This dye is environmentally friendly, and when used as directed does not stain the surface of your walkway or road surface. The dye helps the user to economically spread the ice melter in an even amount and allows the user to see where the product has been distributed. The green colour helps prevents overspreading of the product.


Arctic ECO Green® Icemelter does not chemically affect quality air entrained concrete or treated wood. It helps to keep the ice melted longer than other ice melters which assists in the prevention of damage to concrete caused by the freeze-thaw cycles. Arctic ECO Green® Icemelter is made from all natural, wholesome ingredients. Each granule is comprised of several components with the use of a unique multi-layered coating process, making this product much more effective than common blended products. Arctic ECO Green® Icemelter contains a two-level anti-corrosive formula, including CMA. This helps to reduce the level of corrosiveness in the product making it a better choice to use on sensitive surfaces. It is Fast acting & powerful up to -29°C (-20°F).


Let’s be mindful of our road salt usage this winter. If you want more information on Ice Melts or Eco Green products, please call our Safety Consultants at 604-253-4588 (Lower Mainland) or

250-632-4634 (Kitimat).