Do You Eat Snow?

I will admit that I ate snow when I was a kid. Can’t remember when the last time was. I’ve been having some interesting conversations lately about water and water quality. One of these conversations with Jonathan last night lead to the eating snow issue. It actually started when I remarked about a video I had seen about a lady making ice cream from snow. Looked cool- but I mentioned that I would not want to eat snow from my urban environment.

He reminded me of how snow is formed. That every snowflake has to form around something to turn into its crystal form. It’s the same way that sugar can become rock candy only when it has that string or stick to form around. These are called nucleators.

It was thought for years that most of the nucleators in snow were dust particles. Actually most of what is in the middle of snowflakes is bacteria and Pseudomonas syringae is the most widespread.  It’s a type of bacteria that causes diseases in plants like tomatoes and beans. It is also ubiquitous. There is probably some in your house right now. Especially if you’ve been eating snow!

We know that some bacteria are good for us and others not. From what I have read the experts don’t really agree either.  There seemed at least some consensus that infants and people with compromised immune systems should not eat snow. There is also the issue of other pollutants in the air that the flakes can form around.There can be other bacteria as well.

There is also a group of folks who think we coddle our kids too much. They think rather than treat kids like hot-house orchids we should expose them to more dirt, more bacteria to build up their immune systems.  I see their logic, too. Polio was in part the result of a generation of children raised in nearly germ-free environments. The thought of the time was that all bacteria were bad- and a germ free world was what kids needed. Left the kids’ bodies unprepared for battle, so to speak. If you travel out of the country you have likely been somewhere where you are advised to not drink the water. The locals do. Their systems have become accustomed to the bacteria found in their environments.

So that still leaves the question- Would you eat snow?


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