Nav: Home

Plant-based 'road salt' good for highways but not for insects

October 29, 2018

New Orleans (October 29, 2018)--Beet juice deicer, a natural alternative to road salt that is considered to be an eco-friendlier winter road management solution, may not be ecologically friendly to nearby aquatic species. The findings--the first to explore the physiological effects of beet juice deicer in freshwater animals--were presented at the American Physiological Society's (APS) Comparative Physiology: Complexity and Integration conference in New Orleans.

Beet juice deicer is fully biodegradable and contains a scant 12 percent sodium chloride (salt) compared to traditional road salt deicers that are predominantly composed of sodium chloride. Deicers derived from beets reduce the temperature at which water freezes on roadways and coats the road for up to one week, which prevents ice formation and snow accumulation for longer periods of time, explained Laura Ana Cuciureanu, a graduate student at York University in Canada. Beet juice deicer also has natural anti-corrosion properties that reduce the risk of rust formation on cars and bridges--one of the "hidden" hazards of road salt.

In addition to potential vehicle and infrastructure damage, salt-based deicers can be dangerous to freshwater animals. Excess salt that flows from the roadways into freshwater sources disturbs internal fluid balance in aquatic life that is essential for survival. However, due to the high cost of beet juice deicer products, municipalities in Canada often treat winter roads with a mixture of the plant-based deicer and less expensive road salt.

The research team examined the physiological responses of immature mayflies (mayfly nymphs) when the freshwater insects were exposed to beet juice deicer. "Mayflies can act as water pollution indicators as they are particularly sensitive to runoff contaminants such as road salts and metals," the researchers wrote. They found that compared to a control group, the insects exposed to beet juice deicer retained significantly more fluid while blood salt levels were elevated, which can compromise organ function. . The mayflies' gills also were excreting salt as a result of exposure to beet juice deicing agent, which is the opposite of their normal function. This is not unusual, explained Cuciureanu, because beet juice is rich in potassium, a mineral that mayflies are particularly sensitive to. The researchers were surprised to find, however, that the potassium concentration of the deicer was lower than they had anticipated and should not have caused as much physiological stress as it did.

In addition to the fact that a substance thought to be a responsible, ecological solution may not be friendly to all parts of the environment, these results suggest that potassium in the beet juice alone is not responsible for the altered physiology observed in the mayflies. More research is needed to determine what combination of factors and ingredients in beet juice deicer may be causing problems. "Before a new product can be deemed environmentally friendly, it is important to understand its effects on a range of organisms including aquatic species that are key to maintaining a healthy ecosystem," Cuciureanu said.
-end-
Laura Ana Cuciureanu, a graduate student at York University in Toronto, presented "Impact of sugar beet de-icing liquid on salt and water balance in mayfly nymph, Hexagenia limbata" as part of the session "Osmoregulation Ion Regulation" on Sunday, October 28, at the Astor Crowne Plaza-New Orleans French Quarter.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: The Comparative Physiology: Complexity and Integration conference was held October 25-28 in New Orleans. To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact the communications@the-aps.org>APS Communications Office or 301-634-7314. Find more research highlights in the APS Press Room.

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,000 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.

American Physiological Society

Related Potassium Articles:

Alfalfa and potassium: It's complicated
Expect a tradeoff between alfalfa yield and quality when fertilizing with potassium.
Researchers describe a mechanism inducing self-killing of cancer cells
A KAIST research team has developed helical polypeptide potassium ionophores that lead to the onset of programmed cell death.
There are no water molecules between the ions in the selectivity filter of potassium
Do only potassium ions pass through the selectivity filter of a potassium channel, or are there water molecules between the ions?
Defective potassium channels cause headache, not body pain
Defective potassium channels involved in pain detection can increase the chance of developing a headache and could be implicated in migraines, according to research in mice published in eNeuro.
Scientists develop new method for studying early life in ancient rocks
Scientists have developed a new method for detecting traces of primordial life in ancient rock formations using potassium.
Decoupled graphene thanks to potassium bromide
The use of potassium bromide in the production of graphene on a copper surface can lead to better results.
Elements can be solid and liquid at the same time, study reveals
Scientists have discovered a new state of physical matter in which atoms can exist as both solid and liquid simultaneously.
Updated dietary reference intakes for sodium and potassium
A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reviews current evidence and updates intake recommendations known as the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for sodium and potassium that were established in 2005.
Patients taking diuretics may see more benefit by upping potassium intake
Patients taking diuretics are often at risk for low potassium levels, which can put patients at an increased risk of death from cardiac arrhythmia or other causes.
How does potassium enter cells?
For decades it was assumed that protein channels and protein pumps fulfilled completely different functions and worked independently of each other.
More Potassium News and Potassium Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.