Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow

NEWSciShort_3_12_15Spring appears to be more or less upon us, so it is to be hoped you won’t need this advice anytime soon, but you should definitely think twice before you eat the snow next time you wake up to find a fresh blanket on your lawn. The time-honored tradition of grabbing a hand of freshly fallen snow and yamming your face in it may have more danger than an icy red nose.

Whether it’s visibly contaminated or not, snowfall contains pollutants from our atmosphere, and according to Professor Staci Simonich from OSU, it also contains pesticides and their remnants that are still floating about. No word yet on whether breaking off icicles and licking them is dangerous… beyond getting your tongue stuck.

In a piece for North Country Public Radio, Anne Bramley lays out the main issues. Basically snowflakes’ charming crystalline structure that has enchanted children for decades also acts as a net that catches pollutants in the air as the flakes fall. This is good for the air, but not so good for the person who tries to dig in to a plain slushy (what I call a handful of snow). To be clear, the toxins are in extremely low levels, and you’re probably more in danger from literally a million other things in the food, water, and air. But contrary to popular belief, snow has more than water in it.

According to Simonich, the pesticides she found in snow from national parks across the country were as much as 50 years old. She went further stating that the snow found in residential backyards is probably even more contaminated due to the general filthiness of humankind. But she added that the contamination levels are still way lower than what we accept in our drinking water, so eating a handful is probably not going to turn you into a raging mutant with multiple eyes.

For now…

By Sidney Reilly

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