Eating snow: The real scoop on how safe it is
Let's face it: Eating snow is delicious and super-duper fun. From opening your mouth and letting flakes melt on your tongue to scooping up fistfuls of the stuff and chowing down, eating snow is one of the best parts of every snow day. But is it safe?
Short answer: Mostly, yes. But there are a few rules for safe snow eating you might want to familiarize yourself with first before you start noshing nature's frozen dessert.
1. Don't eat pink snow
Sure, you know to steer clear of yellow snow for obvious reasons, but pink snow is bad too. Also called watermelon snow, that pink hue means the snow contains algae, which can give you wicked diarrhea.
2. Ditto for brown snow
As snow sits on the ground, it can get mixed with dirt and pollutants that can be toxic.
3. Steer clear of the very first snowfall
Snow as it first starts to fall cleans soot and other pollutants out of the air. Wait a couple of hours to grab your snow snack, and avoid the most polluted, early snowfall.
4. Never eat plowed snow
Researchers warn that plowed snow can contain high levels of toxins since it gets all mixed up with who knows what, including chemicals used to clear the roads. Find piles of freshly fallen snow to eat instead.
5. Skip the snow if it's windy
Under windy conditions, snow gets mixed with dirt and pollutants as it nears ground level.
6. City snow is dirtier than country snow
Snow falling in urban areas will contain more harmful chemicals — like benzene from car exhaust — than snow in rural areas, where there is less air pollution.
Scientists warn that much like rainfall, snow can contain low levels of toxins, pollutants and pesticides, so if you're worried about consuming even trace amounts of the stuff, then you might want to steer clear. But most agree that the levels of toxins in most snow, provided you follow the rules above, are safe and fun for your family to consume.
Happy snow day, and bon appétit!