They say “don’t eat yellow snow”, but snow is toxic and you shouldn’t eat it no matter its color, especially in urban areas. It seems that what looks like clean and pure snow falling from the skies inevitably becomes contaminated. And, in response, becomes a health hazard for your health and your children.
The habit of eating snow is innocent at first glance, a simple childhood habit that most have gone through themselves. However, a group of researchers McGill University have found that it’s a potential health hazard due to the numerous pollutants in the air. The snow effectively absorbs them, which are further threatening the health of those who proceed to eat it.
Urban snow in particular have been found to be filled with toxic pollutants just one hour after it hits the ground. The researchers conducted an experiment, placing snow and exhaust fumes in a freezing chamber. They watched the interactions between ice particles and the pollutants expelled by the hazardous fumes to find worrying reactions. The snow effectively absorbed the pollutants from the air.
That means that it icy precipitation had taken in all dangerous chemicals, such as benzene, who is believed to be a strong carcinogenic, ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylenes. Some of them have been found to pose dangerous health risks, and they increased in content after a mere hour of contact. That essentially means that no bit of snow in an urban area is safe.
According to lead author of the study, Dr. Parisa Ariya, she would definitely not suggest to her children to eat snow in such zones. While she does not wish to be an alarmist, the researcher stated that parents should be aware of the hazards. The surface of the snow can absorb gaseous or particulate pollutants that will further endanger the health of the child.
Furthermore, the change of temperatures between the exhaust and the colder air allows for the aerosols to be eliminated from the colder surface. This begged the question of where the aerosols go after the snow actually melts. It is possible that such pollutant emissions can increase. The problem would be especially more pronounced in areas where snows melt and already have high industrial developments, like China.
However, this requires more research, according to Thorsten Bartels-Rausch from the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland. It’s important to see how these exhaust fumes and aerosols are taken, and how they respond to the change in temperatures after being absorbed into snow. In the meantime, not eating it would be the most cautious approach.
Image source: eatright.org