As lovely fall drives give way to wintry snow mixes and slippery parking lots, walkways, and entrances, it’s not too late to align your deicers with your sustainability goals.
Especially if your facility is pursuing LEED Operations + Maintenance certification, but also if you’re concerned with surface corrosion, vegetation loss, skin irritation and more, facility managers must pay attention to their de-icer purchasing choices.
Deicers and LEED
For projects pursuing LEED O+M certification, LEED Interpretation 10146 was updated in January 2015. The interpretation now reads, “Projects may use one of the following compliance paths to achieve the deicer portion of the snow and ice removal requirements for the credit addressing: Building Exterior and Hardscape Management Plans.”
The compliance paths listed in the LEED Interpretation state:
Deicer compliance path #1
Use only those ice melters that contain 100% calcium magnesium acetate (CMA).
Deicer compliance path #2
- Use environmentally preferred deicers at least 20% of the time, measured by weight, volume, or cost.
- Environmentally preferred deicers contain less than 5% sodium chloride, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, potassium acetate, ammonia-based products, and ferrocyanide products.
- Implement an ice melt quality assurance monitoring plan during the performance period to track on-going deicer use and record its effects for every snow event. Include a plan to phase out all deicers that are not environmentally preferred within three years.
Using calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) prevents snow and ice from adhering to surfaces, which enables easy removal. CMA’s product specifications include:
Advantages of CMA
- Less corrosive than tap water
- The safest deicer choice for application on concrete surfaces
- Biodegradable with low toxicity
- Requires fewer applications
- Suitable for indefinite storage
- Obstructs the bond between snow/ice and surface pavement
- Ideally suited for temperatures above 20 degrees F
- Long lasting – outperforms salt and urea
- Improved traction by creating a powdery snow leftover
- Best to apply early in order to prevent snow/surface bonding
- Commercial – 15-20-lbs/1000 ft2
- Highway – 300-400-lbs/lane mile
- Wait at least 20 minutes to remove snow and ice
- Re-treat when new accumulation starts to bond
- Biodegrades to CO2 and H2O
- Safe for use near vegetation
- Does not contain sodium, chlorides, or nitrogen
- Calcium and magnesium work to increase the permeability of soil
- Non-toxic in aquatic settings
- Will not reach groundwater
If your facility is not in pursuit of LEED certification but would still like to use an environmentally friendly deicer because of a desire to protect vegetation, surfaces, and workers who apply the material, it can be confusing to find the right product.
Like many marketing terms, “green” or “eco-friendly” when applied to deicing products can mislead a buyer with good intentions. Aiding the confusion is a lack of third-party ice melt product certifiers. While recent statistics have indicated that 80% of Jan/San professionals prefer to use environmentally safe products in their jobs, skepticism over green labeling practices can be discouraging.
With so little regulation in the ecofriendly deicer market, manufacturers are free to be creative with the concept. For instance, a manufacturer could add small traces of additives to basic rock salt and then claim that their product carries greater environmental benefits. A manufacturer could use the term “environmentally friendly” to indicate the product includes recycled material in the packaging. Or, a manufacturer could use the term “green” in conjunction with some new logo and a product that’s colored green, implying some non-existent eco-benefits.
As regulations struggle to gain a foothold in the environmentally friendly de icer market, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has come to the rescue.
The Benefits of the EPA DfE Label
The EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) is the most reputable third-party certification for ice melt products. The DfE label certifies that the EPA’s scientific review team has thoroughly examined the product and verified that it meets their stringent criteria. The program reviews all chemical ingredients, no matter the percentages, and requires each to meet safety criteria for human health and the environment “including carcinogenicity, reproductive/developmental toxicity, toxicity to aquatic life, and persistence in the environment.” In addition to the ingredients, the DfE program also looks at product performance, pH, packaging and more.
So it’s really pretty simple. If you’re looking for an environmentally friendly ice melt product, you can either follow the requirements of the USGBC LEED certification program or look for the EPA DfE label. For LEED certification, a product made from 100% calcium magnesium acetate, or CMA, is required. If you’re simply interested in a certified eco-friendly, human-friendly, and surface-friendly product, the EPA DfE label is the most trusted and rigorous certification available.
In fact, the current lineup of EPA DfE certified ice melters includes only eight products, the majority of which rely on CMA to achieve their “friendliness.”