The problems with rock salt and road salt

Road_saltSalt has many uses. It is used to flavour foods and to help a body replenish its essential minerals. Power drinks, for instance, have added sodium (salt) to help rehydration. Salt is also used when in unexpected ways such as making ice cream in an ice cream maker. People also know that salt can kill and for example will sprinkle salt between cracks in paving and car parks to kill grass and weeds growing there.

Range of properties

Salt therefore has many properties one of which is that it is caustic. Many elderly folk will remember using salt and baking soda as toothpaste before toothpaste was invented. It removed plaque from the teeth. It was also used to scrub stains from pots and pans before the days of washing up liquid and dishwashers.

De-icing roads

Now, it is used extensively for de-icing roads in the form of road salt or rock salt. The purpose of the salt content is to melt the ice and snow. However whilst it is a good de-icer, the big question is if salt can kill weeds and is has caustic properties what does it do when it has melted ice on the roads?

It is known that rock salt can pit the asphalt and degrades concrete. Many people decry the loss of the finish on their cars when salt is used on the roads. Rust assaults cars faster in icy parts of the country than in warmer climes. Rock salt can also cause the rubber of tyres to weaken.

One of the downsides of using rock salt is that it has no effect at all when the temperature dips below a certain level. This makes the salt less than effective.

Effects on the environment

However, the most serious disadvantage of using road salt is its effect on the environment. Salt leaches into the groundwater. It changes the salinity of the water in streams and rivers. Groundwater doesn’t mean just wells. It means underground springs and rivers. These pour into other bodies of water. Birds and animals drink this water and fish must try to live in it. To humans, a little salty water is not pleasant, but it’s not life-threatening. To a bird or animal, salty water could be life-threatening.

Salt poisons vegetation growing beside roads where snow and ice is piled after scraping the roads. Vegetation can be sterilised up to 700 feet away from roads being salted. Birds and animals eating grasses and other plants can be killed by ingesting the salt. Gardens planted in spring will not yield healthy flowers or vegetables. Plants and trees will suffer as well.

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