On Scholar's Day I attended the Environmental Science presentation entitled "The Environmental Impacts of Chemical Deicers and Road Salt." I was required to attend this presentation for my Environmental Issues class as well. The presentation was approximately 25 minutes long and included a powerpoint presentation. In the presentation itself, it stated the impacts of road salts and deicers, the state uses on the roadways during the winter months. The most commonly used road salt is sodium chloride, which is also the most inexpensive and readily available. Recently after more than a half century of its widespread use in North America, the use of sodium chloride on the roadways have come under scrutiny by the environmental and scientific communities as well as regulators and legislators. The main residual effects of road salts and deicers is the degradation of road side habitat, such as grasses, wildlife kills, and water quality issues.
According to the National Research Council road salt in the United States ranges from 8 million to 12 million tons of sodium chloride per year. In the presentation also, it stated that the wildlife could be substantially effected because the road salt can severely damage vegetation, which is by far the most used food resource by mammals. Deicers can also damage and corrode bridge decks, which is a very dangerous effect. In the presentation conclusion it stated that states who use road salts the most are looking into other forms of deicing. Two alternatives being considered are calcium magnesium acetate and potassium acetate. Both have low corrosive capabilities, but the one draw back is that they are quite a bit more expensive than sodium chloride.
To this day the presentation stated, sodium chloride, even with all the known adverse effects, is still used by more than 98% of road deicing communities across the United States.