As much of the Northeast digs out from the weekend blizzard and kids play in the piles of fluffy white snow, a recently released scientific study shows there may be danger lurking in those innocent-looking snowflakes.
The study, titled “Role of Snow and Cold Environment in the Fate and Effects of Nanoparticles and Select Organic Pollutants From Gasoline Engine Exhaust,” reports that, as snow falls to the ground in urban areas, each flake picks up whatever pollution is in the exhaust polluted air.
Testing in a special, cold-climate controlled chamber, researchers found snow exposed to typical car exhaust for just an hour had increased carbon levels, as well as higher concentrations of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes, called BTEX, and alter nanoparticle distributions.
According to the report, the higher levels of BTEX indicate “the absorption of exhaust-derived toxic organic compounds by snow.”
McGill University’s Dr. Parisa Ariya, the study’s lead researcher, told TheBlaze that the scientists “suggested further research should be done to evaluate the physics-chemical reactions in snow, the nature of remitted compounds and also those produced and transformed during the meltdown of snow and released in aquatic media or in soil.”
One conclusion from the study claimed that these chemicals have the “potential to alter health effects of human exposure to vehicle exhaust.” Meaning that contact with snow falling in urban areas where cars are present could have altered the types of health risks to people. Again, Dr. Ariya clarified, “molecules can be transformed within the snow matrix and can be released.
Additionally, consuming the highly polluted exposed snow could compound the threat to one’s well being.
In an interview with Tech Times, Ariya warned, “As a mother who is an atmospheric physical chemist, I definitely do not suggest my young kids to eat snow in highly polluted urban areas in general.”
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