Dear kids, don’t eat that falling snow…

Children playing in snow (Credit: USFWS)
Children playing in snow (Credit: USFWS)

Main Point:

Snow falling in urban areas could be toxic for human beings due to the presence of dangerous chemicals and pollutants coming from cars and industries.

Published in:

Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts

Study Further:

Beauty can be dangerous and recent research is showing the same, i.e. beautiful and pure snowflakes can be dangerous. Researchers have found that snowflakes are not as clean as they may appear. They reported that snow falling, especially in cities, has the ability to absorb toxic as well as carcinogenic chemicals and pollutants released from car exhausts. Moreover, the interaction between those dangerous chemicals and snows can also produce new types of toxic chemicals.

Snowflakes have different types of surfaces, some of which are able to absorb particulate pollutants and gaseous materials. Researchers simulated the research in a “snow chamber”, and found that snow can absorb pollutant particles in the air surrounding the snow. This research shows two important points; One is that it is better for people living in snowy environment as it could help in purification of environment, and the other is that the level of pollutants can rise, when snow melts. So, researchers and experts of climate have to consider this public health threat.

“The alteration of exhaust aerosol size distributions at freezing temperatures and in the presence of snow, accompanied by changes of the organic pollutant content in snow, has potential to alter health effects of human exposure to vehicle exhaust” researchers wrote in the paper.

This research also shows that you have to forbid your kids from eating snowflakes falling in urban areas.

Source:

Nazarenko, Y., Kurien, U., Nepotchatykh, O., Rangel-Alvarado, R., & Ariya, P. (2016). Role of snow and cold environment in the fate and effects of nanoparticles and select organic pollutants from gasoline engine exhaust Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts DOI: 10.1039/C5EM00616C

Usman Zafar Paracha

Usman Zafar Paracha is Assistant Professor, Pharmaceutics, in Hajvery University, Lahore, Pakistan.