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Is it Safe to Eat Snow?

Well it happened. The first snowfall of THE SEASON. As we nestle into our new home in Ontario, we must face the fact that winter Tis the season more often than Tis not. Ditto for the white stuff, which will soon become brown stuff as everyone likes to remind me.

Though my husband and I have little use for snow (a White Christmas Day would suffice) our kids are excited to have a new use for their sand toys. The other day as I stepped away from the window to grab the camera and prove to my friends in the west that we are in fact nuts, my daughter scooped up a generous helping of snow and licked her mittens right down to the wool. I laughed and told her to stick her tongue out to catch some flakes, knowing her little brother would watch and do the same. But, as I snapped the photo the green meanie suddenly came over me…Is it safe for kids to eat snow?

We all know that the old line, “well we did it and we all turned out fine” is hardly true. Just as the times have changed, so has the snow.  According to Helen Suh Macintosh, an environmental professor at Harvard, falling snow attracts toxins quite easily. In a report on Treehugger, Macintosh suggests that if you’re living anywhere near a city you can assume your snow is doing its fair share of collecting:

Snow is formed by water vapor that moves in clouds in cold air. As the water vapor moves in the cold air, it can stick to a tiny piece of dust and then have other water molecules attach to it, forming a crystal. Once formed, the crystal can continue to grow and can stay in the air for hours before it falls to the ground. It is during this time that the snow crystal can collect or “scavenge” pollutants that are present in the air.

In other words, don’t let the pureness factor of the white stuff fool you.  But even if we know better, does that mean we’re going to stop our kids from their usual sampling, even if we could. As one mom on www.mothering.com said, “short of putting a space helmet on” the kids there is no stopping them. Last winter the International Herald Tribune investigated this very concern. In its conclusion, Dr. Lynnette Mazur, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical School had this advice for parents: “Licking a little snow off a glove is probably OK…A meal of snow is not.” That sounds like a fair compromise, though I don’t know if my four year old will agree.

Do you let your kids eat snow?

[This post was written by Tara Benwell.]



  1. Funny, my kids love to eat snow. I tell them that it might have bird pee on it and that stops them.

  2. oo..that might work, at least with the older one.

  3. Great post! We used to make ice cream from snow when I was a kid in Ohio.

  4. I used to eat snow in big chunks when I lived in MI but we live in FL and we have just an equal concern of our daughter eating the sand but we’ll see how she is when we go to see snow for the first time this winter. I’m glad I came across this post!

  5. Yes, young children do love to taste test the sand, don’t they? At least it’s usually only once or twice before they learn that there is a better use for it. I’m assuming snow still tastes good these days, even if it’s not good for them.

  6. Okay. I just learned the hard way (or rather my children did) that it’s not advisable to eat snow. We’re in Quebec City, though I’m originally from southern California and my sometimes nanny, Alice, is from Panama (snow is not the norm in either place!). Well Alice had my 3.5 yr old daughter and my 20-month son out in the snow. After my son tired and came inside I was watching my daughter voraciously licking snowballs that Alice was making her. I wondered if I should call down to stop the snow eating. Well, 6 hours later both of them were throwing up–my daughter much more than my son who just had a couple of bites of the fluffy white stuff. My French Canadian infectious disease specialist husband chided us as being amateurs in the snow department–of course we’re not supposed to let them eat a lot of snow and especially not at the beginning of the season! It probably won’t be hard to keep the poor little angels from eating snow anymore!

  7. Great story! Thanks for sharing. I grew up in Montreal and ate my fair share of snow as a kid.

  8. hmmm….i don’t have kids, but my dogs LOVE to eat the snow…i wonder what they effects are for dogs.

  9. Mom od teens says:

    My kids are making snow cones (real ones) so we decided to look it up. Too bad. Like anything else, in small quantities, not as harmful. But, no more snow cones for us. O’Momma site says pesticides travel a very long way, some outlawed in USA make it up here.

  10. akerockstar says:

    very cool and interesting article! my parents just took my little brother to the “snow” for the first time the other day. he is 10. so my mom asked me that same question, “Is it safe to eat snow?” i had no idea, so i decided to look it up, and i found a couple of articles…and the answer. thanks!

  11. Hi, i just read a post on yahoo who gives a recipe for snow ice cream. the recipe tells to mix some ingredients with 5 cups of snow. i thought it was horrible for somneone who has many readers to make such a suggestion so i wrote to the writer and got a replied as it was ok and it was a choice to be made. So i’m glad that i came accross your post. I agree that licking some snow or catching flakes with our tongue is fun but to serve 5 cups of snow to children is just wrong. Wish i could find a way to make some sense to that lady on babyparenting.about.com

  12. Im eating snow right now 😀 Im 12 years old. I love it though its so yummy [:

  13. I disagree that it is not safe to eat snow, how do you know that you kids weren’t coming down with the flu? Did you ever take them to the doctor?? Either way, snow is just small particles of dust that collect water and freezeon the way down. Just to let you know, you bring in yourdead skin cells every time you put your head on your pillow. So what is a little naturally purified water gonna do? Unless you live near Beijing or New York or any other similiar city, I suggest you eat all the snow your little heart desires. And snow Ice Cream is amazinggg.

  14. Good post, Lindsay!

  15. I guess it depends on where you live. There are manufacturing facilities on the outskirts of my small town. Although there is no visible pollution in the air (can’t see or smell it), I know from EPA reports that the air here is full of harmful pollutants. The article explains that snow flakes can gather these pollutants from the air. They are not made from “naturally purified” water. BTW, unless you have an allergy to dust mites, those dead skin cells in your pillow aren’t going to hurt you – after all, they come from you! Don’t get your point.

  16. ahh, what a load of bull****, snow is fine, forget the stuff about harmful pollutants and dust, because we are breathing pollutants and bacteria and dust in all the time, and i bit of water that has fallen from the sky isnt gonna hurt you

  17. Here is an experiment to show how clean the snow in your city really is.

    You Will Need:

    a plastic container that is empty, clean, and has a lid

    a coffee filter or piece of paper towel

    a bowl

    a magnifying glass

    1. Go outside and fill the container with fresh snow

    2. Put the lid on the container and let it melt inside

    3. After it has melted place and hold the coffee filter or paper towel over the bowl. Pour the melted snow slowly over the filter or paper into the bowl. Can you see dirt and stuff piling up on the paper or filter? If you can’t tell, use the magnifying glass.


    Every place is different, so to be absolutely sure, do this here little test and see. Today’s world isn’t the same as yesterday, therefore past standards do’t apply.

  18. Darkmavis says:

    Kids need to eat a small amount of dirt. It’s how their immune systems learn to recognise & fight germs. In countries where kids still play in the dirt, virtually nobody has peanut allergies or asthma. In the west we are basically killing our kids with cleanliness.

  19. Drinking tap water is much more toxic than eating a little snow… Arsenic, Pesticides, Pharmaceuticals, the list goes on and on.. and people drink it, feed it to their babies.. So a little snow is hardly worse for you!

  20. I don’t have a child. Can I still be on here? :) I would let it. Yes.

  21. Tis the morning after our 1st real dumping of snow in about 20 years. I couldn’t resist going out to my truck and picking a couple of mouthfuls of the stuff off the top layer (3″ thick) to sooth my parched throat. Then I remembered that someone told me you should eat snow, especially in the city. I figured I drink the water from rain and melting snow cause I live in the country so — what the heck

  22. Snow is so good. Cause I have eat it all my life.

  23. snow is bad it goese throw th annosphiere

  24. i love snow and i am 8 so i like it.I allways thought it was 90% water and 10%
    good for you but i think i would still eat it if it was good for you.

  25. I’m visiting Calgary and have eaten lots of snow since I got here because all it does is snow here. I never ate snow in New York but eating snow here in Calgary is just so hard to resist….its always on the ground.


  1. […] As for the risks of ingesting airborne chemicals and pollutants when you eat snow, that answer is a little trickier. That’s why we’re going to defer to the experts. […]

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