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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Ask Ms. Scientist: road salt and naps

Dear Ms. Scientist,

What are the effects of road salt on the environment? 

Henry B.

Although it may give you grip when strutting down the sidewalks on your morning commute to class, road salt actually has a number of negative effects on the environment, human health, animal health and infrastructure like buildings and cars. The damage is quite visible but there are more dangerous impacts of road salt, composed of sodium, chloride, ferrocyanide and other impurities (calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron to name a few), than merely its white marks left on your black boots. Particularly, road salt washes away into lakes, rivers and streams or it leaches into the groundwater. So, those once naturally salt-free lakes are now contaminated due to road salt runoff; hence, aquatic life is put at risk. And while the water dripping out of your faucet may not only taste salty, it could negatively impact your health by increasing your sodium intake to unhealthy levels. Road salt may also damage nearby trees and other plants that animals may feed off of, similarly harming their diets. Birds, especially, fall victim to this as they feast on the over-salted vegetation. Lastly, road salt even damages buildings. The chloride ions in it can deteriorate concrete or corrode parts of your vehicle. While the sidewalks are slippery, the salt may be the real slipup. 

Dear Ms. Scientist,

How long is the perfect nap?

Brandon N.

No judgements, we’re all quite guilty of the midday nap! Power naps, or a nap lasting roughly 20 minutes, have been shown to improve creative problem solving, verbal memory, perceptual learning, object learning and statistical learning. A quick daytime snooze may also help you in areas such as math, logical reasoning, reaction time and symbol recognition. Napping even has health benefits. The act has been shown to increase moods, and is great for the heart, blood pressure, stress and weight control. In general, a nap should last between 10 and 30 minutes and take place between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.; naps occurring later than 4:00 p.m. may interfere with your regular sleep patterns. Any napper napping longer than a half hour runs the risk of experiencing “sleep inertia” upon waking. This is the phenomena when one wakes up and feels a grogginess that they just cannot get rid of. So go on and nap with a purpose; plan it out, strategically, to get the most out of your afternoon slumber!

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Ask Ms. Scientist is wrtten by Julie Spitzer. If you have a burning science question you want her to answer, email it to

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