Can you eat the first snow?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you eat the first snow?” and discuss the risks related to eating snow.

Can you eat the first snow?

Yes, you can eat the first snow, but you should not. Snow carries pesticide residues and heavy metals that accumulate in the atmosphere. 

The concentrations of various impurities in the air are highest in winter, and the large surface area and slow fall velocity of snowflakes allow efficient accumulation of organic and inorganic pollutants from the atmosphere. PAHs and other organic compounds found in snow may negatively affect human health (2).

What are the risks of eating snow?

The risks of eating snow are to experience a bacterial infection and an intoxication due to pesticides, heavy metals or other pollutants. 

Bacteria that were found were Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Chloroflexi, Firmicutes, Gemmatimonadetes, Cyanobacteria, Acidobacteria and others.

For the fungi, Dothideomycetes, Microbotryomycetes, Lecarnomycetes, and Ustilaginomycetes were abundant in snow (5). Airborne bacteria can lead to infections of the airways and lungs (6).

The harmful health implications of heavy metals can be concluded as neurodegenerative disorders, musculoskeletal diseases, and reproductive hormonal imbalance. Studies report that lead content of newly fallen snow in an urban area ranges from 34 to 56 ppb. Ingestion of lead contaminated snow might pose a health hazard to inner city children (3).

Pesticide exposure causes hazardous effects, such as soft tissue sarcoma, ovarian cancer, lung cancers, asthma, and endocrine disruption. Moreover, they cause genetic damage. They also play an important role in Parkinson’s disease promotion and the DNA damage of sperm (4).

Various compounds, metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) have been reported to contaminate air and these are carried by the snow when it precipitates. The concentration of these pollutants increase in urban areas, where traffic is intense (2).

Is there any benefit of eating the first snow?

The only benefit of eating the first snow is that snow is a form of water and, in case of necessity, snow can be used as an alternative source of water. 

An example is the case of military troops that have scarce resources and are trooping in the arctic regions. Melting snow and ice will provide enough water for emergency use by individuals. However, the water must be adequately treated to ensure that it is potable (1).

Water is essential for ensuring life and adequate intake of water is essential for maintaining health, hydration, regulation of digestion and the body temperature, as well as the function of the brain, through the transporting of nutrients (7).

How can you collect snow in a safe way?

To collect snow in a safe way you should, first of all use a clean bowel or dish and you should save eating snow for after it has been snowing for a few hours. Therefore, you will avoid eating the first snow, which presents higher risks.

Set a dish on your picnic table or deck and wait for the snow to fill it. However, you should not consume snow in large quantities, as snow is not safe to consume, especially in the case of children, due to its unknown composition. 


In this article, we answered the question “Can you eat the first snow?” and we discussed the risks related to eating snow.


  1. Montain, Scott J., et al. Water requirements and soldier hydration. Fort: Borden Institute, 2010.
  2. Kuoppamäki, Kirsi, et al. Urban snow indicates pollution originating from road traffic. Environ poll, 2014, 195, 56-63.  
  3. Grandstaff, D. E., and George H. Myer. Lead contamination of urban snow. Archiv Environ Health Int J, 1979, 34, 222-223.
  4. Alengebawy, Ahmed, et al. Heavy metals and pesticides toxicity in agricultural soil and plants: Ecological risks and human health implications. Toxics, 2021, 9, 42.
  5. Els, Nora, et al. Comparison of bacterial and fungal composition and their chemical interaction in free tropospheric air and snow over an entire winter season at Mount Sonnblick, Austria. Front microbiol, 2020, 980.
  6. Jusot, Jean-François, et al. Airborne dust and high temperatures are risk factors for invasive bacterial disease. J Allergy Clin Immunol, 2017, 139, 977-986.
  7. Popkin, Barry M., Kristen E. D’Anci, and Irwin H. Rosenberg. Water, hydration, and health. Nutr rev, 2010, 68, 439-458.