Magnesium Chloride is one snow and ice melt chemical with a known negative environmental impact. The general “environmental impact” is actually way more personal – over time, it will have a direct bearing on our homes and our lives. Surprised? Here is how real it is:
Spreading of / Uses of Magnesium Chloride
There are two widespread and worrisome applications:
- It is used in the de-icing agent of highways and even many local roads. It seems so nice and neat to see states and municipalities lay down a few drip lines to melt ice and snow on our roads and highways. To the non-enlightened observer, not having salt spread widely on our roads appears less impactful to the environment. However, there are already many studies that report such large-scale use of magnesium mixed into salt has irreversible harmful effects water systems in the environment.
- It is used widely on dirt roads in many states to control dust.
As a water professional, Paul Hurlbut, Professional Water Systems, Inc. is called into many households. He is already
“…seeing houses where whole copper lines have been corroded by regular household water.”
Hurlbut reports that the research on Magnesium Chloride shows that “…its uptake into shrubs, trees and, and perhaps most importantly, our water resources is vastly faster than regular salt/chloride.”
He adds, once magnesium chloride is in domestic water systems – aquifers and public water systems – magnesium chloride is in our household water where it is highly corrosive to copper and stainless steel….in other words, it rapidly corrodes the copper lines, fixtures, and stainless steel found in most appliances.
Just when you think “pex” lines used generally in new construction today is immune, think again: Every mixing valve, shower head, kitchen faucet – plain every fixture – contains brass and copper which magnesium chloride corrodes. Stainless steel found in most of today’s appliances is also quickly impacted by magnesium chloride.
Research Studies On Today’s Snow & Ice Melt
Peter’s Chemical Company states
“Although CaCl2 (calcium chloride) and MgCl2 (magnesium chloride) are considered non-toxic, the Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances states that MgCl2 has nearly three times the toxicity of CaCl2 on a common measure of toxicity.”
Colorado State University Extension (Fact Sheet No. 7.425) studies the effects of magnesium chloride as a dust suppressant and deicing and finds clear evidence of toxicity on roadside trees. The study warns against the use of any chloride-based products.
Find out what homeowners can do
- Talk to local town officials, state officials. Make your local Health Departments and Departments of Public Works aware of these well-understood realities.
- Install water filtration systems in your houses
We all want to have confidence in our public water. Do you know what’s in your domestic water? Find out! Most municipalities are not testing for magnesium chloride today. So how do you know? By testing the water that is coming into your house and mitigating it with custom-designed filtration systems.
Winter is coming. Minneapolis MN and Santa Fe, NM already had their first 2020 snowstorms. So the next time you see de-icing streaks laid down on highways and public roads think about the corrosive and harmful effects on your car, the planet’s water resources, the ponds, lakes, and aquifers – and likely to follow soon, the pipes and the fixtures and appliances in your house.
Eco-Friendly Snow & Ice-Melt Products
Know also, there are eco-friendly alternative products being marketed. They are a bit more expensive, but do they work? Are they reliably eco-friendly?
Finding environmentally friendly solutions are not easy. In a 2019 interview, Brooke Asleson, the pollution prevention coordinator for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency states that
“There are a lot of products out there that are advertised as safe and eco-friendly. But there are no regulated labeling requirements for de-icing products, so it’s hard to know for sure if that’s true.”
Sadly, returning to sand and coffee grounds might be the only known eco-solution – for now.
Serious Health Trade-Offs
Magnesium Chloride in today’s Snow and Icemelt is one of many chemicals widely used today with a well-known and serious health impact. Fire retardants released routinely on so many West Coast fires is yet another. While magnesium chloride may prevent vehicular accidents and fire retardants save land and homes as immediate, and no doubt desirable effects, there are serious, lasting environmental consequences. Let’s hope someone feels inspired to research better materials and solutions! The planet needs it! We need it!