By Dr. Mercola
If you grew up in a snowy region, you almost certainly have memories of sticking out your tongue to catch snowflakes and, probably, also eating it by the mittenfull. It’s practically a childhood rite of passage.
Back then, you probably didn’t give a thought to what was actually in that snow, so long as it wasn’t brown or yellow. But even snow that’s bright white may not be as pure as it appears.
In fact, new research suggests snow is quite effective at absorbing pollutants from the air, which then become embedded in the snow itself.
Snow May Be Full of Toxins
Canadian researchers collected snow from a park in Montreal and measured levels of toxic particles typically found in automobile exhaust. The researchers explained in the journal Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts:1
“Exposure to vehicle exhaust can drive up to 70% of excess lifetime cancer incidences due to air pollution in urban environments.
Little is known about how exhaust-derived particles and organic pollutants, implicated in adverse health effects, are affected by freezing ambient temperatures and the presence of snow.”
The analysis revealed that snow appears to act as a sponge, soaking up multiple toxins from the air. Among them:
Benzene: a known human carcinogen that’s also been linked to birth defects
Toluene: chronic exposure to toluene is linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver or kidney damage, and may affect a developing fetus
Ethylbenzene: another known carcinogen
Xylenes: volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that affect the central nervous system, with symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting
The snow was tested one hour after exposure to exhaust fumes, and levels of the contaminants rose significantly during that period. The researchers suggested that as the snow melts,
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