All That Snow about to Fall? You May Not Want to Eat It.

Saying someone is as “pure as snow” has become a sarcastic insult thanks to a team of scientists.

There's nothing quite so magical as seeing the snow fall on a winter's day. Get ready to have the magic ruined. A recent study has revealed snow has become so polluted in urban areas by emissions that consumption of the stuff, yellow or otherwise, is not recommended.


"Snow flakes are ice particles with various types of surfaces, including several active sites, that can absorb various gaseous or particulate pollutants," Dr. Parisa Ariya, professor of chemistry and atmospheric sciences at McGill University in Canada, told The Huffington Post. "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."

Snow has become so dirty because it's pretty effective at soaking up pollutants from exhaust emissions. That matters to each of us as individuals and as members of a community. "We can't thrive if the communities where we operate don't thrive," says Peter Scher. 

The researchers tested some snow in a lab, putting it in a chamber with exhaust fumes to study how the two interacted. After just an hour of exposure, the snow had diluted the exhaust in the air, while the snow showed it had absorbed some of the chemicals from the emissions. The researchers say there were concentrations of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes that weren't present before the test.

But there's a lingering question that has researchers worried: What happens when the snow melts? Emissions could increase at a rapid rate during a thawing period in industrialized areas.

The purpose of this research is to help inform larger climate studies. "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.

***

Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

Photo Credit: YASUYOSHI CHIBA / Getty Staff

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