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Old 12-15-2016, 12:02 PM   #1
DSettahr
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Study: Eating snow is the equivalent of drinking car exhaust

Those of us that go winter camping and who also melt snow for drinking water might be interested in this article. The article is light on details (and I unsuccessfully tried to track down the study that the article references), but it would seem to indicate that snow has the potential to absorb atmospheric pollution and then transmit that pollution to those that eat it (and presumably to those that melt and drink it as well).

Fortunately, the Adirondack backcountry is relatively free of cars, but as we all know, air pollution isn't always localized to the source.
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Old 12-15-2016, 12:54 PM   #2
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Eating snow can be suicide (hypothermia), melting snow is "an act of last resort". Pollution in streams must rise also, as snow melts. Filtering the water might help, but tough to keep the filter from freezing in the winter.

Interesting that it's making the news cycle, pollutants in snow are not unknown or unexpected.
Hasn't it been known for a decade or more that the majority of "acid rain" that impacts ADK lakes comes in the form of snow in the winter.
Snow flakes have a much larger surface area (vs. rain droplets or ice / hail crystals), they travel much longer distances in clouds (being less dense) and pick up more pollutants as flakes transition temperature gradients in the atmosphere (during "growth").

Anyhow, the study that article alludes to is here
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Old 12-15-2016, 01:28 PM   #3
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hmmmm...When i was a child my mom always told me not to eat snow, "it's dirty". I figured she was just trying to stop me from picking up any random thing that wasn't nailed down...She was born and raised in Brooklyn 1930-1950's but we were reared in Syracuse...must have been an interesting world.. Brooklyn in the 30's.

But as far as melting snow being a last resort?? I don't understand that.

Digressing a bit re Acid Rain.

I leased my one and only new car about 10 yrs ago. After we struck a deal I got shuffled into the F&I department. The F&I manager said I needed the optional paint protection as living around here we are victims of acid rain and the possible damage it could cause to the paint would not be covered by warranty.

I looked at him for about 10 seconds then said..."do you know where acid rain comes from"?

He did not,

I explained that it comes from heavy industry in the midwest...like ..uh...car factories....so I said I'd pass and take my chances if I had to go to court...I think the jusry would laugh them out of court
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Old 12-15-2016, 01:34 PM   #4
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cleansing

After the snow has fallen a bit it seems the sky would be clean. The majority of pollutants in the air would be flushed out with the first few inches of snowfall.
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Old 12-15-2016, 01:47 PM   #5
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But as far as melting snow being a last resort?? I don't understand that.
"Last resort" as in better than dehydration, but only use if no other sources / options exist...
It's not an issue for day trips, since most times you can pack a vacuum flask with a hot drink of choice.
On longer outings, it's tough to keep water from freezing even if you pack it in.

Ideally one would seek out a spring (a source of ground water), if not available surface water source (lake or stream) is preferred to melted snow.

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After the snow has fallen a bit it seems the sky would be clean. The majority of pollutants in the air would be flushed out with the first few inches of snowfall.
Snow in the atmosphere does not fall in a straight line, it follows air currants which mix the cloud load up and down different layers over significant distances... (ever see thunder snow?)

Back to article:
Why is this narrow focus on car pollution? Jet aircraft cause a lot more upper level pollution. Then you have the fossil burning power plants, diesel engines (marine and land locked)...
Are they trying to quantify different sources separately?
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Old 12-17-2016, 11:23 PM   #6
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I was always told not to eat yellow snow but its good to know the white stuff is also a no no.
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Old 12-18-2016, 02:06 AM   #7
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News articles like that one give science a bad reputation ... but do increase page-clicks.

Toxicity depends on the dose.

What kind of chemicals and in what concentrations are we talking about? In other words, how much tainted snow would one have to consume to cause a negative effect in humans? What kind of negative effect? Have there been randomized trials performed on animals? On humans?

Fact: there are known carcinogens in many of the foods and beverages we consume, coffee is a prime example. Toxicity depends on dosage and there are (fortunately for us) vanishingly small quantities of cancer-causing chemicals in your cup o' morning joe.

BTW, did anyone bother to follow the link to the Royal Society of Chemistry site? Which one of the five articles with impenetrable titles is the source for this specious claim?
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Old 12-18-2016, 12:42 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
BTW, did anyone bother to follow the link to the Royal Society of Chemistry site? Which one of the five articles with impenetrable titles is the source for this specious claim?
None of them are. Timberghost posted a link to the study in his post above.
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Old 12-18-2016, 12:44 PM   #9
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So the article itself is basically click bait. They didn't even bother to link to the correct reference.

... and the conclusion in the relevant study is limited to urban environments.
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Old 12-18-2016, 01:36 PM   #10
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So the article itself is basically click bait. They didn't even bother to link to the correct reference.

... and the conclusion in the relevant study is limited to urban environments.
Yes, admittedly not the best source. I think that the paper was included in the link that they had originally, but it looks like a more recent edition of the journal was published after they wrote the article, and they only appear to show articles from the most recent journal publication on the site. Like I said in the post, I tried to track down the source myself unsuccessfully. I perhaps should've put more effort into finding the source material and just posting a link to that (thanks to timberghost for finding it and providing some good clarification on the subject! ).

And while the study focuses on urban environments, I would suggest that snowmobiles have the potential to result in similar types of impact (although likely at different levels). I've definitely done winter camping near or along snowmobile trails myself.
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Old 12-18-2016, 03:05 PM   #11
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Don't mention it (you're welcome).

RE: concentration + dose
Why would one want to expose him/her self to any additional pollutants which could easily be avoided or greatly reduced?
Don't you get enough exhaust exposure on your drive to the trail head?
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Old 12-19-2016, 09:35 AM   #12
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Any form of precipitation is formed around particles of dust or pollution.
If this is a big worry, stay inside and drink chemically treated water..that Nestle is stealing from public aquifers

If it looks black, don't melt it.. Or do melt and filter the result.
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Old 12-19-2016, 11:59 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by DSettahr View Post
Those of us that go winter camping and who also melt snow for drinking water might be interested in this article. The article is light on details (and I unsuccessfully tried to track down the study that the article references), but it would seem to indicate that snow has the potential to absorb atmospheric pollution and then transmit that pollution to those that eat it (and presumably to those that melt and drink it as well).

Fortunately, the Adirondack backcountry is relatively free of cars, but as we all know, air pollution isn't always localized to the source.
Infectious agents could be an issue, too. Does anyone know whether fallen snow in beaver country carries Giardia? If the answer is yes, then the melt water from snow should be boiled, in addition to the initial heating to melt. Recall also, low water temperature reduces the efficacy of iodine tincture against giardia cysts. I am conscious to this issue because my usual winter hydration strategy for the AT ( spring to spring, insulated water bottles ) fails in the ADKs. Melting snow day-to-day adds an appreciable load to the back pack, namely back to the white gas stove (WhisperLite) rather than alcohol stove or Jetboil.
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Old 12-31-2016, 12:00 AM   #14
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So it's Friday night and I'm a little too lazy to read this whole study. I skimmed it (I'm an environmental chemist). But it seems like if I put snow into a chamber and pumped exhaust into the chamber, the snow is going to absorb the exhaust, because you're basically measuring volatile organics like benzene that exist as gases in my exhaust, hitting a cold closed chamber and turning it into a liquid to be absorbed in the snow present.

The question here is - say I'm a couple miles out in the Adirondacks and I've not got a car exhaust pumping into my closed boiling container, am I going to be consuming boatloads of toxins? I'm guessing not. I'm guessing we are pretty safe as long as we're not collecting the snow that we are going to melt from a parking lot with a bunch of cars running or at the side of the road.

I'm sure snow is subject to some atmospheric absorption - it's collecting some of the sulfur and nitrogen and mercury and lead, etc that is floating about up there, maybe even to a higher extent than rain would. I'd rather poke a hole in the ice and use my filtration pump; but unless I was using this as my primary drinking water source for a prolonged period, I wouldn't even worry much about that.
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Old 12-31-2016, 10:06 AM   #15
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I been dwinking melted sno my hole life and ther's nothun wong with me!
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Old 12-31-2016, 12:06 PM   #16
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Click bait is an accurate appraisal. Next will be an article espousing the hazards of breathing. Sounds like an article inspired from cabin fever madness.
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Old 12-31-2016, 02:03 PM   #17
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Instead of speculating, and hypothesizing the question could easily be answered by experiment. But then there would be less to discuss (argue) about on the interwebs. Although I am almost certain the background of those who conducted the study, their methodology, etc... would provide enough fodder for those who don't want to believe the results (whatever they may be). It is though we reached a point in our society where it is more important to strengthen ones current beliefs than it is to learn (which one must abandon current belief to accept reality).
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Old 12-31-2016, 04:31 PM   #18
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a) snow is no dirtier than rain. Or it might be through some technical shenanigans, but I'm not reading the article to find out.
b) eating snow while exercising, while you have food available, while you're warm and have dry clothes, is fine. I stretch my water bottles by adding snow as I drink the water.
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Old 12-31-2016, 05:34 PM   #19
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Much ado about nothing
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Old 12-31-2016, 05:35 PM   #20
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I stretch my water bottles by adding snow as I drink the water.
I do that too. I also often melt clean snow for drinking water. Tastes better than boiling IMHO.
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