Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Road salt: the bane of winter

In my previous post, I wrote about the aesthetic problems of road salt, and how the slush it creates makes winter in the city so unpleasant.

Here's the rest of the story: Road salt came into common use in Canada in the 1940s as a melting agent to clear roads of ice and snow.

Growing urbanization, longer commutes, and the decline in the use of winter tires in favor of all-season radials has led to "bare pavement" policies on roadways, and ever increasing dumping of salt onto our roadways and parking lots.

Road salt is, of course, bad for plants and the soil. Salts disrupt absorption of nutrients by plants and can be toxic to plant cells. High salt concentrations also degrade the soil and can be harmful to micro-organisms and other soil organisms.

Salt runoff from roads, parking lots and salt storage facilities pollutes creeks, rivers and lakes and affects aquatic life. The salt can also poison birds and harm other wildlife.

Our dependence on road salt is rather depressing, but here's a link to an organization working to change things in Ontario: http://www.lowsaltdiet.org/


  1. Here's another side issue: The municipalities here have been trying to use some sort of liquid alternative to road salt. They are finding that using the two in conjunction with each other, as many places do, is actually MORE corrosive than just using one or the other.

  2. In Sweden road salt are more or less abandoned because of its bad influence on the environment. There are alternatives that works pretty well in cities. (Unfortunately I'll start work for the day soon and can't tell you more - but there is hope :-) )

    Happy gardening!


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