Pass the Salt

Maybe Toronto should change it’s name to Margaritaville

Never mind the toll it takes on your hems, footwear, cars, carpets, and beautiful hardwood what about the pets?

Every time I see a dog lift it’s paw and hobble along due to salt I want to cry, scream, and punch someone in the face.

I’ve lived in two different east end buildings since 2009 and I find myself constantly battling with management to ease up on the salt. I recently moved into a condo I purchased from Streetcar Developments, my email to the property manager regarding the excessive use of salt in and around the property has gone unanswered.

I get it, we need something for traction but most places defer to the City saying that that’s what they use, so they follow suit. A reasonable amount of salt properly scattered works, we don’t need excessive piles of sodium landmines.

In 2004 the City of Toronto created a salt management plan

This is their policy on sidewalk snow clearing as found on page 15 of the report:

Sidewalk Snow Clearing

‘Mechanical sidewalk snow clearing is required along selected eligible sidewalks in the City as adopted by the Council meeting of July 24 to 26, and as reported to Works Committee on September 4, 2001 (see Appendix C). Current guidelines adopted within the City requires that snow clearing begins when snow accumulations reach 7.5 cm, but District Mangers are allowed latitude in case of freezing rain. Salt/Sand mixtures are used as required after ploughing to provide grit and traction on eligible sidewalks. Within District 1, most sidewalks adjacent local roads do not meet established guidelines and, as such, adjacent residents are required under existing By-Laws to clear the snow from sidewalks. The current standard is 50/50 salt to sand blend. At a few locations a higher percentage of salt is being used since sand clogged the spreader units. In light of the new salt initiatives, sidewalk snow clearing practices will be reviewed.’

It seems they’ve changed from the 7.5 cm guideline to any time there’s a chance of snow, then they saturate the area as a preemptive measure.  Sand? I’ve only seen salt, and the amount that’s been dumped since the beginning of the 2015-2016 winter season would suggest we’ve had major snow falls and ice storms. We haven’t.


Amy Powell, a Leslieville resident, walks her two dogs along Queen St. on her way to the Don River trail and is constantly dodging salt piles, sometimes being forced on to the street. She’s contacted the Riverside BIA, some condominium corporations along Queen St., and Canadian Tire requesting less usage. They all responded and said they would look into it.

Recently she was so incensed when she came across a massive pile on Bleecker St. she took a picture and posted it to Facebook. It garnered over 50 comments, the majority in agreement. One person quipped about bringing a bucket, collecting the excess, and taking it home to save money.

Powell followed up with an email to Paula Fletcher’s office, included pictures, and suggested that perhaps all that salt was being distributed to use up the quota, after all there is a contract to be honored.

An area superintendent was sent out to have a look and deemed the amount acceptable. This was mid January and the warmer weather had melted the snow therefore diminishing much of the salt.

At least Powell had the “before” pictures.

What are the Alternatives?

The City talked about adding sand to salt and using brine as a pre snow treatment in it’s report.

There are a few commercial products that boast being pet and environment friendly, these are probably best for local businesses and households. I hardly think the City would find them viable on a larger scale.

As with most things you should read the fine print.

Safe Paw:

Although the Safe Paw name and label suggests your pooch will be unaffected and it’s safe for children, it contains Glycols which are part of the alcohol family, this can dry out paws. It also mentions “proprietary traction agents” and “special inhibitors”, that’s a bit vague and left to interpretation. I’m not suggesting that it’s a bad product, I’d like to see clearer information though.

I contacted them requesting the ingredients in laymen terms, I’ve yet to hear back.

Update February 1 2016

I received an email from Safe Paw. They attached several reports, if you’d like them please comment below and I’ll forward them to you.

Here is the conclusion:

Summary of the TRA 

The exposure to the “Ice/Snow ” may cause the following toxicological effects among the general consumer population, when the product is used as intended;

Toxicity (Acute, Oral) per 16 CFR 1500.3(c)(2)(i)(A): ——– Not Expected

Irritation (Eye) per 16 CFR 1500.3(c)(4)————————- Expected

Irritation (Skin) per 16 CFR 1500.3(c)(4)————————- Mild Expected Strong Sensitization per 16 CFR 1500.3(c)(5)—————— Not Expected Corrosion per 16CFR 1500.3 (b)(7)——————————– Not Expected


The quantity of the “Ice/Snow melter” per consumer package (167 oz) is not anticipated to cause acute toxicity of any significance among the general consumer population, when used as intended,  and can be considered as “Reasonably Safe” for its intended use.  However, the following precautions must be adopted;

Avoid generating dust.  Wash hands after use. Avoid contact with eyes and skin.  Keep away from children.  In case of eye contact, wash eyes immediately with plenty of water and get medical attention.  For adult use only.

Gaia Enterprises, Inc is authorized to use the seal on the product package.. 

  End of the Report 




“EcoTraction’s main ingredient is Tractonite™, a unique green mineral that comes from only one source in North America. EcoTraction claims that their Tractonite comes from a small mining company that does not use any chemicals or toxins to process the Tractonite, and is a leader in environmentally responsibility. The grains are green in color, making it easy to spot and keep track of once spread. In the spring, after all the snow and ice has melted, EcoTraction recommends that their product be recycled from the driveway into the lawn or garden to improve soil aeration and plant growth. It can also be swept into the garbage where it will naturally reduce odors and at the landfill as well. If it happens to stay on the ground, EcoTraction will absorb odors and purify the air from impurities like exhaust and smog.”  – Source

Wow, it can even deodorize a landfill, sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Imagine what it can do for hockey bags and an adolescent’s sneakers.

Their appearance on Dragon’s Den fired up all five dragons, here’s their pitch.

Can salt cause cancer in dogs?

EcoTraction’s pitchman Mark Watson states in the video that he believes his dog Grover died of cancer due to salt.

I spoke with Suzi Beber from her home in BC. Beber is the founder of The Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund that raises money for research and treatment of canine cancer thorough the University of Guelph Pet Trust Fund .


“Rock salt causes dehydration, pancreatitis, liver failure, and kidney disease.

Calcium Chloride, the active constituent known as rock salt, can cause burns when it comes into contact with skin.  It can also cause respiratory tract irritation.
Back in 2000, a medical researcher at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, said that there appears to be a strong link between cancer and the use of road salt.  Using data from the United States, various types of cancer were compared to 200 possible causal agents.  The “strongest” correlation found, was in areas where people were dying from cancer.  It was theorized by Professor Harold Foster, that the substance used to keep the road salt from caking, was the “culprit.”
At that time, the federal government was considering a ban on road salt, but as you know, this has not occurred.  It was said that more comparative studies had to be done.  (In British Columbia, brine is used on the roads.)
In 2013, it was reported that Mountain Rock Salt AKA Sodium Chloride was being used in Markham, Stouffville, Richmond Hill, and Toronto.  The Material Safety Data Sheet” did not have data on carcinogenicity, which means, that in their eyes, there was nothing known about the salt causing cancer.  This is very different, from what was discovered back in 2000.  An Animal Poison Control Centre Adjunct Instructor for the Department of Veterinary Biosciences in the United States, stated that the salt was a health risk ONLY when large amounts were ingested.” – Suzi Beber

What can we as individuals do?

First off we need to be diligent about getting to the snow on our properties as soon as possible, shoveling, then putting down a traction enhancer. We could try more natural products such as non clumping kitty litter, sand, or this nifty concoction:

1. One quart lukewarm water.
2. 3 drops dish washing detergent
3. 1 ounce rubbing alcohol

Mix all 3 ingredients together and pour into a spray bottle. Coat icy surfaces with this mixture and the ice will quickly be gone. If you don’t have a spray bottle, the ingredients can be poured on the ice.

Apparently this works well on windshields too.

Protecting those precious paws

Of course there are dog boots and paw balloons but not all dogs are tolerant of them.

Want to see a Tasmanian Devil dog? Try putting them on my friend’s Chihuahua.

Musher’s Secret designed in Canada for sledding dogs is a good alternative. It’s a balm that you apply to the paws. It acts as a barrier, conditions the pads, and can be used year round. I use it on my dog Booboo when we do our constitutional walks around the block.

Inform the source

Gently educate your over zealous neighbors and local merchants about the hazards and offer alternatives or distribution advice. Hopefully they’ll be receptive, if not take it with a grain of… well, you know.

If you see excess amounts on City property take pictures, call 311, and contact your local council member.

We’ll probably never banish it all together but if we make enough noise we may get to the point where it’s managed in a reasonable manner.


Too much salt? Contact Harold Kemp Head of Salty Operations, City of Toronto


Phone: 416-392-7072

Do you have some tips for dealing with salt?

Post in the comments and share your ideas.




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