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Each winter, over 22 tons of salt is sprinkled on U.S. roads to melt ice and snow and keep them drivable (that's about 137 pounds of salt per person!) Since roads don't have to worry about high blood pressure -- and a 1992 study found that salting roads reduces car accidents by a whopping 87% -- what's the problem here?
Well, for one, salt (the chemical compound sodium chloride) is extremely corrosive: It eats through cars and trucks, bridges, even concrete. If you have a car and live in a snowy climate, you've probably witnessed first-hand what it'll do to your car's paint job. One study estimates that it causes Americans somewhere between $16 - $19 billion a year in damage. Plus, when the salted-ice melts, it seeps into nearby bodies of water, causing dramatic increases in salt levels that can be deadly to local wildlife.
Plus, some areas are running low on salt. This has forced some cities to come up with creative alternatives to road salt. Some Wisconsin cities have been experimenting with pre-soaking their roads with cheese brine. Other communities are mixing beet juice with road salt to reduce the amount of salt needed. Some environmentalists are calling for the use of kitty litter, but it is much more expensive. Are they using any interesting salt alternatives in your town or city? Let us know in the comments below.
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Road Salt's Damaging Effects Prompt Tech Alternatives (via News.Discovery.com)
"For those who have to hit the highways, road salt is, literally, a lifesaver."
How America got addicted to road salt - and why it's a problem (via Vox.com)
"The US economy doesn't grind to a halt every time there's a snowstorm. And a big reason for that is the more than 15 million tons of salt we dump on our highways, roads, and sidewalks each winter to melt away the snow and ice."
Communities seek a substitute for road salt (via USA Today)
"From sugarcane molasses to beet juice, local governments look for alternatives."