Road salts overview

Road Salts are used in Canada as de-icing and anti-icing chemicals for winter road maintenance, with some used as summer dust suppressants.

A comprehensive 5-year scientific assessment by Environment and Climate Change Canada determined that, in sufficient concentrations, road salts pose a risk to plants, animals and the aquatic environment. A Risk Management Strategy for Road Salts was subsequently developed to outline the measures that Environment and Climate Change Canada proposed in order to manage the risks associated with road salts.

Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Government of Canada published a Code of Practice for the Environmental Management of Road Salts on April 3, 2004. The Code is designed to help municipalities and other road authorities better manage their use of road salts in a way that reduces their impacts on the environment while maintaining road safety.

The Code of Practice recommends that road authorities prepare salt management plans that identify actions they will take to improve their practices in salt storage, general use on roads and snow disposal. In 2012, Environment and Climate Change Canada completed a Five-year Review of Progress (2004-2009) that indicated the Code had been effective in increasing the use of best practices for managing road salts in Canada. The Code and Review were developed in consultation with a Multistakeholder Working Group for Road Salts.

The Review identified several actions that could be considered for the continued improvement in road salt management. One of these actions was to set national targets for the implementation of best practices against which performance of the road organizations and the success of the Code could be evaluated. Proposed Performance Indicators and National Targets were published for a 60 day public consultation period.  A summary of comments has been published on Environment and Climate Change Canada‚Äôs CEPA Environmental Registry website. Final Performance Indicators and National Targets were issued on December 23, 2014.  Another recommendation from this Review was to conduct a review of the Code 5 years after the National Targets are established.

In 2022, ECCC completed a second Five-year Review of Progress (2014-2019). This review concluded that the Code is still an effective instrument to manage the environmental impacts related to road salt use while maintaining roadway safety. This Review also identified several actions that could be considered to improve the implementation of the Code including the continued use of the National Targets.

The Government of Canada is not banning the use of road salts nor proposing any measures that would compromise or reduce road safety.

Explore the links on this page for more information on how the Government of Canada is taking steps to reduce the risk of road salt to the environment, while keeping Canadian roads safe.

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