Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Effects of salt understated?

Devin Rigby, of the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), says studies have been done on the use of calcium chloride and that ITD continuously monitors and tests possible effects. I wonder if the safety tests were done by the corporation that made them or an independent agency? And have tests been conducted in the Wood River Valley to assess possible damage here?

There is nothing on the Web site. Also, he says that tests have shown no negative impact on groundwater, surface water or vegetation when properly applied. So, who monitors whether the chemical is properly applied and where does the chemical go if it does not go into our rivers and streams; surely it doesn't just disappear into thin air? Also, if it is so benign, then why does he urge us to wash our cars regularly? Maybe because it corrodes cars?

I, for one, would much rather run the risk of a cracked windshield from some sand than have to get under my car when it is 20 below outside and wash the undercarriage. I find it hard to believe that something that can corrode steel has no negative impact on the environment, but I realize I am no chemist.

Wikipedia says this about calcium chloride: "Calcium chloride is an irritant; wear gloves and goggles to protect hands and eyes; avoid inhalation. Although calcium chloride is relatively safe to handle, care should be taken that it is not ingested. Calcium chloride reacts exothermically with water and can burn the mouth and esophagus." That doesn't make it sound very safe to me.

Some good old sand and some snow tires, not to mention some cautious driving, seem a much safer and environmentally friendly solution to me. We choose to live in the mountains—surely we can just drive a little slower and deal with the roads.

Neil and Leslie Bradshaw


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