Apr 25, 2017 | Updated: 06:14 PM EDT

Experts Warned: Melting Snow Releases Toxic, Carcinogenic Pollutants

Apr 06, 2017 02:10 AM EDT

A man shovels a snow covered Manhattan street on an unseasonably cold day on March 15, 2017 in New York City.
(Photo : Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Has air pollution slowly taken over the world by snow? A recent study shows that snow takes up airborne carcinogenic pollutants from the atmosphere and alter its concentrations to different nanoparticles as the conditions get warmer.

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Researchers from McGill University and école de Technologie supériere in Montreal have found that the urban snow accumulates different types of toxic emissions. These carcinogenic pollutants trapped in the snow are then released as the weather becomes warmer.

Per Science Daily, postdoctoral researcher Yevgen Nazarenko is working together with professor Parisa A. Ariya at McGill's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and Department of Chemistry and professor Patrice Seer's team of researchers at école de Technologie supériere discovered the nanoparticle carcinogenic pollutants in the melting snow. "We found that snow absorbs certain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are organic pollutants known to be toxic and carcinogenic," they said in their reports.

Professor Ariya also explained the impact of these pollutants found in the snow in her new study published in Environmental Pollution. According to her study, air pollution already claimed 8 million lives. That is why It is very crucial to understand how carcinogenic pollutants react with the environment to reduce many premature deaths caused by midair pollution in North America and the world.

In Nature World News, scientists took a test and analyzed how snowflakes absorb carcinogenic pollutants from car emissions. They placed fresh snow in a frozen glass sphere that is built in the laboratory and exposed it to the engine exhaust then analyzed the interaction between car emissions and the snow in a low ambient temperature.

They discovered that the snow can take up a large mass of organic pollutants and aerosol particles in the gasoline engine exhaust in just 30 minutes. Likewise, these particles are affected differently by the cold and snow depending on the type of fuel the car engine used and be made to be carcinogenic pollutants.

Moreover, pollutants may undergo chemical transformations when accumulated in a snow pack, creating additional carcinogenic pollutants with different toxicity and carcinogen. Some of these toxic and cancerous chemicals can volatilize back into the air or accumulate in melted water as the snow melts.

Other related findings explain that the melting of snow could also lead to a higher short-term concentration of certain carcinogenic pollutants in the air, soil and in the water. Further studies and environmental monitoring would be beneficial in identifying and finding the most harmful pollutants as well as a reduction in the consumption of gasoline formulations and optimizations of engines and exhaust treatment technologies.


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