Study: Eating Snow Is Gross — Even if It’s Fluffy and White

New research shows snow can absorb pollutants from car exhaust, some of them carcinogenic.

Ask any five-year-old you know and they will tell you: There’s just something about a giant pile of fresh, white snow that makes you want to grab a handful and stuff it in your mouth. And seeing as how we’re expecting a whole lot of snow this weekend, I’m guessing lots of folks — children and nostalgic adults alike — will be chowing down on the white stuff. But please, dear friends, I beg you, just don’t. A new study published in the journal Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts shows that urban snow can be filled with all sorts of gross — sometimes carcinogenic — pollutants. Ick, ick and more ick.

As the Huffington Post reports, the study, done by researchers at McGill University in Canada, looked at the way snow interacts with particles and pollutants from car exhaust, which it would be surrounded by in an urban environment, by putting snow and exhaust fumes in a chamber together. What they found was that snow was super efficient at removing pollutants from the air — by absorbing them. After just an hour, the snow’s concentration of exhaust chemicals dramatically increased. So put city snow — even if it’s oh-so-fluffy and free of dog pee — in your mouth and you’re basically eating a ball of chemicals. Again, ick.

As the lead researcher on the study, Dr. Parisa Ariya, told Huffington Post, “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.” So if, come Saturday morning, you find yourself in a snowball fight in Center City, try your best to keep your mouth covered.

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