Dog Owners Being Warned of Road Salt Toxicity

Share Article

An innovative product called "EcoTraction" is gaining the attention and support of thousands of dog owners and eco-conscious consumers across Canada thanks to Home Depot. Used as a high traction agent instead of toxic road salt, the safe mineral-based product is the result of a tragic event dating back to 2004 when three dogs on a small Ottawa street suddenly died of cancer. Mark Watson, who lost his dog Grover, consulted with medical professionals and concluded that road salt was likely responsible for their deaths. Road salt is a substance that was declared "toxic" by a Health Canada and Environment Canada 2001 report but it continues to be widely used today. Members of the media can view a short 1 minute online video excerpt of Watson explaining how EcoTraction works:

An Ottawa man who lost his dog to cancer is warning dog owners about the toxic dangers of road salt.

Mark Watson, a former IT professional, says that his dog Grover and two other dogs on his street suddenly died of cancer in 2004 likely because of exposure to road salt.

Explaining why road salt can be dangerous to dogs, Watson says: "Upon returning home from their walks, my dog Grover and my neighbours' dogs would ingest this toxic substance by licking their paws."

A veterinary oncologist suggested to Watson that a toxin in the environment, such as road salt, was likely responsible for the dogs' cancers because she had seen similar symptoms in several other cases.

Watson's full story can be heard through a 7 minute You Tube video:

Watson will also be sharing his story at the Green Living Show in Vancouver at BC Place February 29 to March 2, and in Toronto at Exhibition Place April 25-27.

Road salt was declared "toxic" in an extensive 2001 assessment report done by Health Canada and Environment Canada. Their conclusion: we must reduce our use of the pollutant. See full report:

In early 2006, the Sierra Legal Defense Fund and RiverSides Stewardship Alliance initiated a campaign to legislate the reduction of road salt use in Ontario.

"A Low-Salt Diet for Ontario's Roads and Rivers highlights current regulatory inconsistencies with respect to the use of road salts for winter road maintenance in Ontario," says the report summary. "Road salts have been determined to be an environmentally toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA). Despite the finding that road salts are environmentally toxic, there are no mandatory requirements for managing road salts storage, application or snow disposal in Ontario."

Read the full campaign report:

In December 2007, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty stated that he agreed with the province's independent Environment Commissioner Gord Miller who strongly recommended taking further action to reduce the use of toxic road salt in Ontario. See:

As per the 2001 Environment Canada report which declared road salt "toxic," about 4.9 million tons of road salt is released every year on our streets and may poison some birds while being detrimental to wildlife and their habitat.

Veterinarians have also raised red flags about the dangers of road salt to animals. CBC News quotes Dr. Michael Bratt of the Granville Island Pet Hospital as saying that road salt can make animals sick. He says that when ingested by our pets, the ice melters "can upset animals' digestive systems, causing vomiting and diarrhea." CBC News article:

CBC also reports that the University of Victoria published an initial study in 2000 that found links between "road salt" and "cancer." Acknowledging the study, the Canadian Cancer Society later stated that we shouldn't yet make final conclusions until further medical and scientific research is done. Read CBC article:

Today, University of Victoria Prof. Harold Foster stands by the initial study and continues to state that we are spreading toxic road salt on our streets at our peril. He hopes to see further studies done.

Foster explains that ferrocyanide is often used in road salt as an anti-caking agent to prevent the salt from clumping-up. He says that the problem with ferrocyanide is that it breaks down and generates hydrogen cyanide, a substance also present in cigarette smoke that can facilitate the action of carcinogens. See:

After losing his dog Grover to cancer, Watson searched the globe for natural alternatives to toxic road salts and ice melters.

"My searches took me further and further around the world and eventually I came across a green volcanic mineral that has amazing traction properties and is 100% safe for pets, property and the environment," explains Watson.

His discovery, along with his drive to offer dog owners a safe alternative to toxic road salts, compelled him to launch a new product in 2005: "EcoTraction."

To watch a 1 minute video of Watson explaining why his innovative product provides several times better traction than sand, visit:

He says that his product is not only safe but he claims that it even helps to absorb toxins and heavy metals from the environment. "Some municipalities use this mineral to filter their drinking water as well as to clean up chemical spills," says Watson.

He explains that in the Spring and Summer, EcoTraction becomes a mineral nutrient for the lawn and garden instead of destroying vegetation like road salt does. He also says that it is used by organic farmers as a natural soil amendment and as a safe food additive for cattle and chicken.

Marc Appleby is the President of Earth Innovations Inc. under which he and Watson, CEO, manufacture and distribute EcoTraction. Quoting research by Debi Andrus, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business, Appleby says that an estimated 29 per cent of Canadian households own a dog. To read about Andrus' research, visit:

"Millions of dog owners are concerned about their pets' health and EcoTraction is the safest and most effective solution to address their needs," says Appleby.    

"We at Earth Innovations not only encourage consumers to switch to a green and safe product but we also want to work with municipalities to reduce the environmental impact and long term costs of toxic road salt."

His partner Watson explains that the 4.9 million tons of road salt used every year in Canada is enough to fill 1.2 million minivans or the Olympic stadium 3 times. He says that Canadian cities and municipalities can't continue to ignore the long term costs associated with using toxic products such as road salts.

Watson says: "Not only does it harm wildlife, our pets and possibly our children, but it rusts our cars, pollutes our underground water streams and destroys the environment. Road salt also eats away at our bridges and highways and will cost tax payers billions in repairs and replacement costs."

Appleby believes that a good first step for governments would be using EcoTraction in environmentally-sensitive areas like parks and trails, as well as residential neighbourhoods.

Watson says that it may take years before we can persuade elected officials to take unprecedented steps to ban known toxic substances and move towards greener and healthier alternatives but that at least today consumers can move in the right direction.

"We're grateful for Home Depot's leadership in making EcoTraction available across Canada throughout their stores," states Watson. "It's an important relationship to us and to all dog owners who can now feel comfortable knowing that their pets will no longer be intoxicated with all the known toxic ice melting products out there."

Mark Watson and Marc Appleby are both available for media interviews.

Contact information for the media

Earth Innovations Inc.
Contact: Mark Watson, CEO
Tel: (613) 232-4379 ext. 104
Fax: (613) 232-6746
Earth Innovations Inc.
Contact: Marc Appleby, President
Tel: (613) 232-4379 ext. 103
Fax: (613) 232-6746

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Mark Watson, CEO

Marc Appleby, President
Visit website