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Breaking the Ice

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Slippery sidewalks and driveways can spell injuries during winter months

Slippery sidewalks and driveways can spell injuries during winter months. A quick solution to dissolving ice is to scatter rock salt, or sodium chloride, over frozen areas. But you might want to reconsider buying that bag of salt.

Sodium chloride has been found to cause eye irritation, dermatitis, and rashes when coming in contact with skin. Dogs and cats can develop severe burns on the underside of their paws and can become ill trying to lick the salt off. Between 30 and 50 percent of rock salt spread on roads and sidewalks adversely affects the environment by contaminating ground water and killing plants. The risk to humans is also increased as higher levels of sodium in drinking water can cause hypertension and high blood pressure.

Fortunately there are alternatives to rock salt. Ash, sand, and cat litter provide some traction for walking but won't do much to melt the ice. Look for eco-friendly products specially formulated for households with children and pets at your local health food store. The safest, although not the easiest way to rid your walk of ice, is to break it up with a shovel and clear a path. At least your muscles will get a workout during those long winter months.

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