The use of salt on roadways has been linked to aquatic dead zones, poisoned animals, wounded pets and even the possibility of increased cancer risk. Because salt is widely available and inexpensive, it is most commonly used for de-icing roadways. Other options do exist, such as sand, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and others. These are generally more costly, and in times like these, cost takes precedence over human and environmental safety.
In one study, the benefit of salt on roadways was a decreased incidence of traffic accidents by up to 85 percent both during and after storms. This is a major benefit, but how to balance the lives of drivers now with the long-term health effects that can cause problems for generations to come?
Perhaps one option is to reduce the amount of salt used, or to put more efforts into refining out at least some of the harmful components found in most road salts. Perhaps our northern states can try to find a balance between cost and safety, and divert more of a budget toward less risky de-icers.
However it comes about, change is obviously needed. Plants, animals and waterways are all suffering from the excess salt runoff after a winter season. We need to take steps to ensure the future of these northern areas while still protecting the future of drivers today.