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Ice Melts That Are Safe For The Environment

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With the arrival of winter, residents of cold climates have to battle icy roadways and slippery sidewalks that can cause accidents and injury. But road salts and other commercial chemical ice melts can also be harmful to humans and animals, especially pets who must walk through built-up layers of snow and ice melt all winter long. The corrosive agents in many ice melts can do real damage to paws and coats even in a single winter. Fortunately, many cities and individuals are finding alternative methods of dealing with the icy weather.

Road salt is the most common form of ice melt in the U.S., which uses an average of 20 million tons per year. But while there is no question of its effectiveness, salt also comes with several hazards: over time it can damage cars, streets, sidewalks, clothing…in fact anything it touches. Despite its name, what we call road salt is actually a chemical compound consisting of calcium chloride (CaCl2), magnesium chloride (MgCl2) or potassium chloride (KCl). Anti-caking additives such as ferrocyanide release chloride ions, especially when exposed to sunlight.

Salt-contaminated water runoff causes irreparable damage to plants, soil and natural water bodies, not to mention drinking water reserves. Road salt is usually the least expensive ice melt, but recent increases in demand combined with dwindling supplies have caused the price to skyrocket to as much as 300%.

Some recommend a urea fertilizer as a de-icer, though this too is less than ideal. Although urea contains no chlorides and the nitrogen it contains is healthy for grass, it’s far less healthy for waterways – which of course it where it ends up once the snow melts. Much like salt, urea is costly and far less effective.

There are plenty of other ice melts that are safe for the environment and less expensive as well:

· Sugar beet molasses increases the melting capacity of rock salt when the two are mixed, which reduces the amount of salt needed. Its stickiness also helps decrease damage to vehicles from flying rock salt pellets and provides much-needed traction on slippery winter roads. Although in this case rock salt is still being used and is still harmful.

· Wood ash is another good ice melt for residential areas, though the heavy metals present in the ash can be damaging to lawns and gardens.

· There are also several commercially-sold alternatives that are specially formulated to be gentle on animal paws, including Safe Paw Ice Melter.