Ice-melting products a danger to animals
December 30, 2004
A sad story recently came to my attention. A reader lost a beloved dog after the dog was exposed to a chemical snow and ice-melting product.
The reader had purchased the product specifically because it said “nontoxic.” However, because his dog was tiny, it quite possibly licked enough of the product off its feet or inhaled enough product dust to kill it.
Whether the product actually killed the animal, or the animal had an existing condition that was exacerbated by ingesting the chemical, is unknown.
Chemical snow and ice-melting products can make driveways, walkways, and decks safer.
You’ll find these products under a variety of common names at hardware stores, grocery stores and other outlets.
They usually contain one or more of the following ingredients: calcium chloride, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, and strontium chloride.
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These are all salts. In addition, other ingredients are added to make the products stick, spread, and pour.
All labels contain many of the following comments: With proper use safe for vegetation and concrete; safer for animals, concrete, plants and the environment; nondamaging ice melt pellets will not break down carpets, floors or leave an oily white residue when not overapplied; noncorrosive, environmentally friendly; a proven ice melter that is safer for pets; contains anticorrosion agents and chemicals that reduce scaling to concrete, and leather shrinkage to gloves and footwear.
Note the comment “safer for pets,” which implies a range of safety. These products have been known to eat concrete, damage leather shoes and gloves, and ruin carpeting. And since most products contain salts, plants and lawns can suffer salt damage.
I looked up the Materials Safety Data Sheet for some common ice-melt products. Manufacturers are required by law to provide these data sheets, which contain a variety of helpful facts, such as the products’ ingredients, health hazards, handling and storage procedures, and recommended emergency treatments should mishandling occur.
If a data sheet doesn’t accompany a product you purchase, you can often find it on the Internet.
Some health hazards identified on some of the data sheets are as follows: may cause severe irritation with corneal injury; prolonged or repeated contact may cause irritation, even burn; dust may cause upper respiratory tract irritation and large amounts taken orally may cause gastrointestinal irritation and ulcer.
The effects of overexposure are severe irritation, corneal injury, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and thermal burns.
Some products can be used without causing injury or harm, but it is very wise to read labels carefully and follow directions exactly.
No one wants to cause injury, so be aware there might be health hazards, especially for small pets and children.
Sand or cat litter can be used to melt ice and snow, as alternatives to chemical products.
For more gardening and landscape information, contact me at 887-2252 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office.
— JoAnne Skelly is the Extension Educator, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension for Carson City and Storey County.