My worries on the use of rock salt as a winter de-icer

My worries on the use of rock salt as a winter de-icerThe spreading of rock salt as a de-icer for our roads is something that has been undertaken every year in the UK for as long as I can remember. Local authorities up and down the country have a responsibility to keep our roads clear of ice and snow, as much as is practically possible. It was obviously decided some time ago that this was the most cost effective method of doing so.

False economy

As a pure costing method measured solely against the alternatives this probably was the best way to ensure value for money for tax payers but there would seem to have been no account taken of the substantive consequential costs that come with using a toxic and corrosive substance on our roads. Rock salt consists primarily of sodium chloride (salt) and it is the sodium and the chloride that cause the problems.

The real costs

The major problem in my view is the damage salt can cause to our water sources and water based eco systems. When the snow and ice melts the sodium chloride in the rock salt doesn’t just disappear, it contaminates water supplies whether by direct run-off into surface water drains or by moving through the soil and groundwater into streams and other natural water locations. To put the contamination in perspective, just one teaspoonful of rock salt will permanently contaminate five gallons of water and once it is in the water it cannot be removed unless by expensive methods. The rock salt therefore can eventually damage our drinking water and affects aquatic life and other organisms that have not adapted to living in salt water.

A problem that is close to my heart in relation to the use of rock salt is the risk to pets. Rock salt can cause severe irritation and inflammation to pets’ paws and when the natural reaction of your pet is to lick the affected area then this can cause sickness and other related problems. If the rock salt is directly ingested, and this can easily happen from a build-up of residue at the side of roads, then this is highly toxic and can lead to severe reactions and even death.

Another significant problem with rock salt is the corrosive nature of salt and the effects it has on cars and the under carriage components of cars such as brake pipes are well known to motorists. This damage also applies to road structures such concrete and metal structures such as bridges. Rock salt causes ongoing damage in these areas the cost of which can only be substantive.

If you have ever put salt down to kill weeds then you will fully understand the damage it must be doing to plants, vegetation and the soil itself of all areas adjacent to roadways. It is also harmful to insects and small animals that inhabit the roadway eco systems.

Spread the word, not the salt

If the real cost of using rock salt was to be determined I am sure it would cease immediately as the costs would far outweigh the benefits and an alternative would be used. The point is that there are alternatives to rock salt; we just need to make the authorities aware of this. If you want to check out one source for an alternative you can visit

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