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Environmental Science and Policy
Although sodium chloride is known to have detrimental effects on the environment, it has been used for decades as a deicer, and other chemicals have only recently entered the picture as alternatives. One of these which is currently popular is magnesium chloride, another chloride salt. In this project, I set out to discover what products are used on the Smith campus to combat dangerous snow and ice, as well as whether magnesium chloride might in fact be just as harmful to the environment as sodium chloride. To address these questions, I interviewed the grounds manager of Smith and I researched both the documented and hypothesized effects of magnesium chloride on the environment due to use as a deicer. In my interview, I was informed that Smith does use products containing magnesium chloride, most prominently the recently patented Ice Ban. The available literature on magnesium chloride’s effects strongly supported the hypothesis that they were very similar to those of sodium chloride, including increased chlorination of ground- and surface waters, displacement of nutrients, mobilization of heavy metals in soils, and possible detriment to both land and aquatic plants. These results shed light on the little-known effects of magnesium chloride on the environment, and indicate that Smith should keep an eye open for more environmentally friendly products. The results also strongly advise other city and institution administrations to rethink their deicing methods and remain alert for any newer and more eco-friendly products.
© 2008; Lauren Chambers
Chambers, Lauren, "The Negative Effects of Deicing Salts on the Smith Campus Environment" (2008). Capstone, Smith College, Northampton, MA.
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