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Desserts Made Of Snow: Are They Safe? Experts Warn Freshly Fallen Flakes Absorb Toxic Organic Compounds

Update Date: Jan 19, 2017 06:06 PM EST

Desserts made of snow may look tasty, but experts warn that these ice crystals have toxic organic compounds. Even freshly fallen snowflakes are reported to be contaminated and polluted especially in the urban areas.

Recipes of snow cones, snow ice cream and even cocktails are flooding Instagram and Pinterest. Snow cream is quite popular as they simply add condensed milk, sugar, vanilla and sprinkles in the snow.

In a study titled "Role of Snow and Cold Environment in the fate and effects of Nanoparticles and select Organic Pollutants from Gasoline Engine Exhaust," experts found that snow actually absorbs toxic organic compounds from vehicle exhaust. Even the snowflakes that have not reached the ground contain gaseous and particulate contaminates.

Snowflakes are formed in the atmosphere when water vapour condenses and form into crystals. According to Parisa A. Ariya, co-author of the study and chair of the department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at McGill University, most atmospheric water and precipitation are contaminated.

Jeff S. Gaffney, a professor of chemistry at University of Arkansas, said that if snow would be sold in a grocery store, its package would list the following in its ingredients section: formaldehyde, mercury, nitrates and sulfates. Water would be the primary ingredient, of course.

Ariya said that eating desserts made of snow may be considered if one lives in a more rural area where vehicle traffic and pollution are not common. He said he gives snow to his children when they are on remote Canadian sites even just outside the city.

However, even if one lives in a remote and rural area, scooping snow for desserts should be done with vigilance. Snow that has a tinge of rose colour may mean it has algae that can upset one's stomach. Windblown snow often mixes with dirt and other ground-level contaminants. 

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