• deicing salts;
  • ecosystem effects;
  • retention;
  • exposure

Widespread use of salts as deicing agents on roads has been perceived as a significant source of environmental and economic damage. Early studies focused on near-road and short-term effects where concentrations can exceed several grams per liter. Evidence is accumulating that the use of salts has significant effects over broader areas, longer time frames, and is affecting a range of ecological processes. Concentrations of NaCl can be elevated throughout an ecosystem to >100 mg Cl/L, which may have nonlethal and possibly subtle effects on sensitive life stages of several organisms. NaCl seems subject to retention within terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, thus prolonging the actual duration of exposure and leading to elevated warm-season concentrations when reproduction may be occurring or other sensitive life stages are present. Many of the alternatives to NaCl reduce some of these negative effects, although are currently cost prohibitive for large-scale use. Some techniques for managing application rates are improvements in technology, while others involve novel mixtures of organic compounds that may have new environmental consequences. The increasing evidence of these widespread and persistent environmental consequences must be brought into decisions on deicing procedures.