A new study says that eating snow is potentially dangerous, particularly in urban areas.
Dr. Parisa Ariya, a professor at McGill University in Canada, told The Huffington Post that snow in cities can absorb toxic and carcinogenic pollutants and that the snow itself combining with those pollutants can lead to even more dangerous compounds being released.
“Snowflakes are ice particles with various types of surfaces, including several active sites, that can absorb various gaseous or particulate pollutants,” she said.
Ariya, who led the study, said she did not “wish to be alarmist,” but “as a mother who is an atmospheric physical chemist, I definitely do not suggest my young kids eat snow in urban areas in general.”
The study examined how snow interacts with pollutants from car exhaust in the air. Findings showed that snow pulled pollutants like benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylenes from the air. The amount of pollutants concentrated in the snow increased dramatically.
“Without considering snow and ice, one will not be able to properly evaluate the effect of exhaust emission, and subsequently health and climate impacts, for the cities which receive snow,” Ariya said. “Further research is recommended to address various aspects of such experiments under various environmental conditions, for adequate implementation in future modeling.”