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Winter Season Preparations
November 24, 2017

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For many cities across the country, the weather is slowly inching closer to the freezing temperatures. With this colder weather comes snow, slush, frozen rain, and icy conditions. Proper de-icing and anti-icing measures are important to know in order to treat sidewalks, clear cars, and ensure minimal damage.

As the two names imply, “de-icing” is about removing ice and frost after it has already formed, while “anti-icing” uses techniques, often chemical, to prevent ice from forming in the first place.

Commonly used for de-icing, salt is easy to obtain when clearing driveways and walkways. However, salt has a flaw in that it becomes much less effective once temperatures reach below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Salt performs better with liquid water rather than solid water. This is why many people come to prefer sand. The coarse nature of sand melts snow and ice while also providing good traction for drivers on streets and pedestrians on sidewalks. Additionally, the added friction of driving or walking on a sanded path can prevent new ice from forming.

For cars, vans, and other vehicles, salt and sand can’t do much to prevent the radiators and engines from literally freezing apart. This is where antifreeze comes in. Antifreeze is a liquid chemical concoction used to prevent damage to the vehicle’s internal components. Antifreezes can have chemical ingredients such as CH2OHCH2OH (ethylene glycol) or C3H8O2 (propylene glycol) that effectively lower the freezing point of water. This in turn can prevent ice from forming and allow car to operate in freezing temperatures.

Other chemicals that can be used inside an antifreeze include:

  • Azelaic Acid
  • Benzoate
  • Borate (borax)
  • Nitrate
  • Nitrite
  • Pemelic Acid
  • Phosphate
  • Sabacic Acid
  • Silicate
  • Suberic Acid

However, as all of these chemicals suggest, there are dangers to using antifreeze. On an average year, over 90,000 pets and kids ingest the toxic liquid. Bottles left unattended can be tampered with, and antifreeze can sometimes leak out of a car and leave a puddle on the ground. Pets specifically can lick this antifreeze in large amounts before having any foul aftertaste. This is because ethylene glycol makes the colorless and odorless liquid taste very sweet, similar to soda and juice. The negative consequence of the flavor is that it becomes enticing to drink more antifreeze, especially when considering antifreeze doesn’t have instant symptoms.

For small children and animals, consuming even a tablespoon of the product can be disastrous. There are three stages to antifreeze poisoning, with effects being similar for children and animals:

Stage 1 poisoning can happen anywhere between 30 minutes to 12 hours after ingestion. The symptoms include vomiting, seizures, and excessive thirst.

Stage 2 poisoning is next; within 12 to 24 hours after ingestion there is increased damage to the internal organs.

Stage 3 for cats occurs between 12 hours and 24 hours after ingestion, for dogs occurs between 36 to 72 hours after ingestion, and for children occurs between 24 and 72 hours after ingestion. For all who reach this stage, though, the poisoning damages the brain, liver, kidneys, and cardiovascular system. If left untreated, the symptoms can progress and eventually lead to death.

Prevention is easier than treatment, and all consumers should strive to be safe rather than sorry. Consumers should firstly store their products in a safe place that neither children nor animals can access. Never place the liquid in a location where it can be mistaken for something safe to drink. Antifreeze can still be bought, but if possible it is better to purchase products with propylene glycol as it is less harmful than ethylene glycol. Car radiators should be maintained frequently to avoid leaks. Lastly, antifreeze can still be bought, but if possible it is better to purchase products with propylene glycol as it is less harmful than ethylene glycol.

If antifreeze is swallowed, it is much better to contact Poison Control or a local medical emergency facility than it is to wait it out. The symptoms may not show up immediately, but the damage can be permanent if nothing is done. The upcoming winter season should be a time of joy and wellbeing, so everyone should take extra measures to keep things out of harm's reach.

Independent Chemical Corporation is a proud chemical supplier in New York. Learn more about the diverse range of our products and ingredients that are offered here.

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