Is White Snow Really Safe to Eat?

Is White Snow Really Safe to Eat?

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Kaitlin Flannery
Feb 1, 2016
(Image credit: David~O under CC BY 2.0)

Of all the weird things a child could misguidedly attempt to eat, snow ranks pretty low on the danger scale. As long as they stay away from the yellow snow, they're good to go — right?

Mostly. Most of the cited scientists agreed that, no, a little snow is not going to hurt you. But they did have some tips to consider to ensure your snow harvest is as delightful and pure as possible.

An obvious one is to avoid snow that has been plowed, because it likely contains contaminants from being on the road. You may also want to avoid snow that's fallen on a particularly windy day, because dirt may have mingled its way through the party before settling on the ground.

The most surprising one to me, however, is that snow is at its purest a few hours into a snowfall. They explained that this is because the flakes collect airborne contaminants as they drift to the earth, cleaning the air as they go. Eventually, the air is so clear that there isn't much left to pull along with them, meaning the freshest, topmost snow is also the purest.

But don't let that fact lead you to hesitation about grabbing a bowl of snow from the backyard. According to Anne Bramely's interview with Chemistry Professor Jeff Gaffney, contaminants in the white stuff are "all at levels well-below toxic." So dig in — I know I will.

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