It is unhealthy to eat any snow, even those fluttering white snowflakes that appear beautiful and ‘clean’ because snow absorbs air pollutants, a team of Canadian scientists said.
Led by Dr. Parisa Ariya of McGill University, the team looked at how snow interacts with pollutant chemicals, particularly pollutants found in vehicle exhausts.
The researchers found that just after an hour on the ground in an urban area, natural snow had absorbed a considerable amount of air pollutants. To prove the presence of pollutants in snow, the researchers mixed toxins found in vehicle exhaust into a freezing chamber of snow, and measured along the way the amount of each chemical found in the snow.
By the end of an hour, the level of pollutants in snow had increased enough to allow them to conclude that snow had absorbed the pollutants.
Dr. Ariya said, “Snow flakes are ice particles with various types of surfaces, including several active sites that can absorb various gaseous or particulate pollutants. As a mother who is an atmospheric physical chemist, I definitely do not suggest my young kids to eat snow in urban areas in general.”
The researchers looked at pollutants like benzene, toluene, xylenes and ethylbenzene. It may be noted here that benzene is a potent carcinogen – a cancer-causing agent or substance.
The study was detailed in a recent edition of the science journal Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts.