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Chicago, IL

Every winter some 13 million tons, more than half the salt produced in the United States, is spread on wintry roads. In the six-county Chicago area, the Illinois Department of Transportation alone uses 140,000 tons of sodium chloride in an average winter, and counties and municipalities cumulatively add even more.

If any other substance were scattered into the environment in such quantities, there would likely be a public outcry. But salt, for the most part, is taken for granted. It has caused great costs as cars and highway bridges corrode, but citizens and politicians have generally accepted those costs as part of the bill for clear winter roads. The environmental costs have generally been taken for granted too.

Some ramifications:

  • Millions of dollars in road surfaces, parking garages, bridges and automobiles due to salt damage.
  • Salt enters the water system in run off from bridges, roads, and highways killing wildlife, plant life and damaging soils.
  • Limited plant replacement “palette” with salt tolerant plants. 75% of plant replacement due to salt damage.
  • Increase in car washing, dry cleaning, damaged shoes and boots, animal paws, repainting of wrought iron fences, signs, bike racks, etc.
  • Most road salt contains sodium ferrocyanide as an anti-caking and corrosion inhibitor. This compound, broken down, contains toxic cyanide forms.
  • Inhalation of wind blown road salt by residents.