Bad Game of Thrones puns aside, a new study does indeed say that snow, no matter how white or how pure it may look, is not safe to eat.
The researchers state that snow in urban locations can suck up similar types of pollutants than the ones that emanate from car exhausts. In fact, they add that the intermingling of frigid weather and pollutants could result in new, obviously harmful compounds.
“Snowflakes are ice particles with various types of surfaces, including several active sites, that can absorb various gaseous or particulate pollutants,” said McGill University (Canada) professor and lead author Dr. Parisa Ariya in an interview with 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.”
Ariya’s team studied how snow is able to interact with particulate matter and pollutants from car exhausts by placing both snow and exhaust fumes in a chamber. They would discover that snow was very effective in removing pollutants from the air, following a series of chemical reactions. These pollutants included benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylenes, and were found in unusually high amounts. All told, this could pose a serious health threat, and should be taken sock of in future climate change discussions, the researchers said.
“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 added in her interview. “Further research — lab, field and model — is recommended to address various aspects of such experiments under various environmental conditions, for adequate implementation in future modeling. Further advisory policy will also be required.”