|Is it safe to eat snow?
|Question Date: 2007-09-20|
Well, I guess the answer is that it depends.
Basically, of course, snow is just frozen water
and actually more or less frozen DISTILLED water
because it is moisture that was in the air which
condensed. But there are a few ways in which other
things than water can get in the snow. For
example, if the air is not clean, pollutants from
the air can get included in the snow. Actually,
tiny dust particles are essential even for the
snow to form, they are the "seeds" on which the
water starts to crystallize (freeze). The other
way things can get into the snow is once it has
fallen on the ground. Things from the ground,
things put on the snow... On a side note, drinking
huge amounts of distilled water is dangerous by
itself, but since snow is so cold, it is unlikely
that you'll eat enough of it to run into that
problem. On another side note, melting snow is the
main source of water for mountaineers all over the
world. Of course, in your typical high mountain
environment, the problems from contamination that
I mentioned above are minimal and so it is very
safe. For taste and to get around the "distilled
water danger" I mentioned, you would usually add
things like Kool-Aid, Gatorade, or even just a
little salt to the melted snow.
line: eating clean snow is not only safe, it is
fun and sometimes necessary, and something
everyone should do at least once in their life!
I wondered the same thing as you did, when I
was in the snow last winter.I saw kids eating snow
when they were in a group supervised by adults.
From that 'scientific' observation, I made the
hypothesis that the adults supervising the
students thought that it was safe to eat the
The answer depends on the location and
appearance of the snow you want to eat. Is it
dirty looking? Does it have a faint pink layer on
top?The pink layer is due to the presence of red
algae - tiny primitive plant cells. A scientist
once told me not to eat pink snow,s but I don't
know if it is really dangerous or whether she was
just being cautious.
It probably won't hurt you to catch a few
flakes on your tongue, but I wouldn't eat a
handful of it. As snow falls, it picks up all
sorts of things in the air, like particles of
pollutants. Then when it's on the ground, all
sorts of things can happen to it, even if it looks
When I was in a Girl Scout
mountaineering group we were often camping in the
snow and had to use it for drinking water. We
boiled it first so it was safe, but we told each
other not to look at it or chew it because the
snow that looked so clean when we picked it up
often contained pine needles, small sticks, and
Some communities near mountains get
most of their water from snow melt,but they treat
it first. Where does water come from in your
community?What happens to it when it goes down the
drain?Thanks for asking,
Ordinarily, yes - snow is just frozen
The reason why I say "ordinarily" is
because some snow contains red-pink algae that can
give you diarrhea if you eat it.
It depends on where you are and where the snow is.
Fresh fallen snow is usually safe to eat, as long
as it's collected in a clean container or clean
glove. (Think about everything you've ever
handled with your gloves or mittens... would you
want to lick that?) Old snow can have dirt blown
over the top of it, even if it's just a few days
old, so it might not be safe to eat unless you
melt it and boil the water. And obviously, if
you're scooping snow off the ground, you don't
want to dig so deep that you're gathering dirt or
old snow in what you're scooping up.
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