WHAT IS ROCK SALT?
Rock salt is commonly used as a de-icing agent to melt snow and ice on roads, sidewalks, and other surfaces. Rock salt is a mineral that is primarily composed of sodium chloride (NaCl). It is a naturally occurring mineral that is often found in underground salt deposits or in the form of evaporated sea salt.
NEGATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS
Rock salt can have negative effects on the environment, particularly when it is overused or applied incorrectly. Here are some of the ways that rock salt can negatively impact the environment:
Contamination of Waterways: When rock salt is used to melt snow and ice on roads and other surfaces, the salt can be washed away by melting snow and rainwater and end up in nearby waterways. This can increase the salinity of the water, which can be harmful to aquatic plants and animals. In addition, the chloride ions in rock salt can leach into groundwater and contaminate drinking water supplies.
Damage to Vegetation: Rock salt can damage plants and trees, particularly if it is overapplied or if the salt gets into the soil. The salt can cause the roots to become dehydrated and can damage leaves and other plant tissues.
Corrosion of Infrastructure: Rock salt can be corrosive to metal infrastructure, such as bridges and vehicles, and can cause rust and other damage if not washed off.
Harmful to Wildlife: Rock salt can be dangerous to wildlife if it is ingested or if they are exposed to high concentrations of salt in their environment. When wildlife consume rock salt or salt-contaminated vegetation or water, it can cause dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and other health problems. In severe cases, it can even lead to death.
In addition to directly affecting wildlife health, rock salt can also have indirect effects on the environment that can harm wildlife. For example, when rock salt is used to melt snow and ice on roads and sidewalks, the salt can be washed into nearby waterways, increasing the salinity of the water and making it uninhabitable for some aquatic plants and animals.
HAZARDS TO HUMANS AND PETS
Pets are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of rock salt, as they may ingest it while walking on sidewalks or roads that have been treated with de-icing products. Ingesting rock salt can cause pets to become sick, experience vomiting or diarrhea, and even lead to seizures or other serious health issues.
In addition to being harmful if ingested, rock salt can also cause skin irritation and dryness (Salt Burn) if it comes into contact with human or pet skin. This can be especially problematic for people with sensitive skin or for pets with thin or sensitive paw pads.
RISK OF PROPERTY DAMAGE
Concrete and Masonry Damage: Prolonged exposure to rock salt can cause damage to concrete and masonry surfaces, including cracks, scaling, and deterioration of the surface. This is because rock salt is hygroscopic, which means it attracts and holds moisture, and when the moisture freezes and expands, it can cause the surface to crack or flake off.
Corrosion of Metal Surfaces: Rock salt can cause corrosion of metal surfaces, such as vehicles, railings, and other metal structures, by accelerating the rusting process.
Flooring and Carpet Damage: When rock salt is tracked indoors, it can cause damage to flooring and carpeting. The salt can scratch or pit flooring surfaces, and when it dissolves, it can cause water damage or discoloration to carpets.
Landscaping Damage: Overuse of rock salt can cause damage to trees, shrubs, and other vegetation by interfering with nutrient uptake and causing dehydration.
SAFER ALTERNATIVES TO ROCK SALT
Calcium Chloride Ice Melt works by releasing heat when it comes into contact with moisture. This heat causes the ice and snow to melt, allowing for safer travel on roads and sidewalks. Calcium chloride is effective at temperatures as low as -25°F (-32°C).
Urea Ice Melt can effectively melt ice and snow at temperatures as low as 0°F (-17°C). Urea is less corrosive and less likely to damage concrete and metal surfaces. It is also less likely to contaminate water sources and less likely to harm vegetation, making it a safer option for the environment.
Magnesium Chloride Ice Melt works by absorbing moisture from the air and melting ice and snow on contact. It can melt ice and snow at temperatures as low as -13°F (-25°C). Magnesium Chloride is less harmful to plants and animals due to a lower toxicity level.