Friday, December 19, 2008

A Big Storm Is Brewing but How Do We Melt the Ice?

I live in the Boston area and our first really big snowstorm of the year is currently underway. It got me thinking about how we rid ourselves of the packed down white stuff from roadways, sidewalks and on our own doorstep. Generally the two types of traction adding or melting products in our area are sand or salt, but I became curious about the environmental benefits or drawbacks of these two most popular options.

☼ Will melt snow but only at temperatures above fifteen degrees Fahrenheit (or so)
☼ Is corrosive and will eat into concrete and metal (think how fast car bodies rust out or that white ring on boots)
☼ Can inadvertently harm vegetation due to increased sodium levels seeping into dirt
☼ Will help to dry surfaces
☼ Can harm pets (digestive, sores) as they lick chemicals from their paws

☼ Will give traction but will not melt snow or ice
☼ Is not corrosive
☼ Can runoff into water ways and clog drains or sewers

Salt would appear to be the smarter alternative as it will melt and dry the surface where snow or ice were once located but in the long term it has far more extensive drawbacks to the land, pets, water and our structures. This all made me wonder if there was an alternative out there that would be friendly to our entire environment and still take care of the clean up of ice and snow.

I Googled in every possible way I could conceive to locate an environmentally friendly option for melting ice that was also safe for pets and there was only one product available. The product is called Safe Paw and it is created from a “crystalline amide core infused with special glycols”; not salt. I looked into what an amide is and sadly the scientific explanation did go a bit above my head but from what I could infer it is an ammonia type substance with a potential tie to amino acid. The glycols help melt snow because they are an antifreeze substance (commonly found in the liquid in our cars).

Safe Paw works up to two degrees below zero and does not heat up like many compounds do (such as calcium chloride which can cause burns to skin if not handled properly). Additionally the product claims to leave a shield after it melts the ice (also claiming to begin melting immediately) so ice will not refreeze for up to three days.

This is a product I will keep in mind for when I move out of an apartment and into a home. I would love to hear if others (especially those with pets or children) have used or will give this product a try. For the innovation and potential environmental benefit I am granting Safe Paw a Three Leaf Rating. Once I try it out someday that might even go up!

Congratulations for the effort Safe Paw!


High Desert Diva said...

Ethaylene (sp?) glycol is sweet tasting to pets but, according to my husband, will kill them.

My husband works for the ODOT heavy equipment shop and frequently repairs and gives classes on using the deicer equipment.

Some deicers are made from a corn syrup derivative. Every year ODOT experiments with new deicers. But the stand-by is a salt brine from the Great Salt Lakes with an added rust inhibitor. (There is some irony here as Oregon has a ban against rock salt on the roads)

Another interesting post...

Jenn said...

You know that is exactly what I thought about the glycol (like the car antifreeze) so I kept digging on & around their site to see what else they might have for information but it just kept saying "special glycol". I am thinking of buying a bottle just to see if the ingredients are listed. I might have to put myself back in Chem class to decipher it but I really want to know.

Matt was telling me that they used a similar salt from Onondaga lake to melt snow when he lived in Syracuse but also at the time it was considered one of the most polluted waterways in America. Six of one I guess...

I must say, I like the idea of the rust inhibitor. Does it still eat at concrete?

Bridgete said...

Well, my cat doesn't go outside so I haven't looked into any of that stuff. Plus I still live in an apartment so it's not up to me anyway.

Moving to Boston is my first real experience with snow, when it randomly happens in Portland the city just shuts down until enough brave souls have mashed and melted it with their tires, so I don't have any past experience with any of that.

I am concerned about the whole "special glycols" deal though, because antifreeze is definitely poisonous.

High Desert Diva said...

I'll ask when he gets home. He started spouting off so much info this morning, my eyes started to glaze over!

Karen said...

OK Jenn, when you find something that will melt ice in HAVRE, MONTANA when it's 25 below with a wind chill factor of 45 below, let me know, would ya? ;) I'm not sure, but I think when I get back to MT after Christmas, I'll just be staying inside where it's warm and dry until May... or June. HA!

High Desert Diva said...

Mark isn't sure about the rust inhibitor eating away the concrete.