For end users who are looking for an ice melt product that makes a smaller impact on the environment, there are some in the marketplace that may meet their demands.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established the Safer Choice Standard, formerly known as the Design for the Environment (DfE) program. The Safer Choice Standard identifies the requirements products and their ingredients must meet to earn the Safer Choice label, which means that the agency’s review team has screened each ingredient contained in a product and found each to pose the least concern among chemicals in its class.

“The Safer Choice Standard label is a fairly new designation, and the purpose is to design a product with ingredients that are less harmful than others that might be used,” says Smith. “To that end, when you look at the Safety Data Sheet on some of these, you will find that the blends are essentially the same as those sold in the past. Many of these contain magnesium chloride, which does help cut ice and snow quickly, but the base materials are still rock salt.”

Ice melt products recognized as a “Safer Choice” by the EPA must meet specific criteria, including functioning at less than zero degrees Fahrenheit, reducing sodium and chloride use by at least 30 percent, and not containing cyanide as an anti-caking agent, among other requirements. 

Ice melters are a part of the U.S Green Building Council’s LEED program. Any facility earning this green designation needs to comply with the snow and ice removal criteria found in the Sustainable Site Prerequisite.

Under the latest revisions to the LEED v4 Building Operations and Maintenance Addenda, the requirements for snow and ice removal are vague. Facilities need to use “best management practices” to reduce harmful chemical use and/or chemical runoff.

However, prior criteria had clearer guidelines, including only using deicers that contain 100 percent calcium magnesium acetate. Another compliance path instructed that environmentally preferred ice melters be used at least 20 percent of the time. So if the coming winter is harsh and ice melt supplies run low, customers with LEED facilities should be able to occasionally substitute a non-green ice melt and still meet criteria.

It may appear to uninitiated jan/san customers that the marketplace is flooded with numerous different ice melt products, but if distributors take an educational approach, the choices will soon become clear. Ice melt plays an essential role in winter safety programs. The right ice melt applied correctly will reduce the chance for problems this winter.  

JoAnn Petaschnick is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee.

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