Eating snow carries danger of pollutants

Is it safe to eat snow? It depends.

Snowflakes originate way up in the atmosphere, as water vapor condenses and forms ice crystals around tiny bits of debris like dust or pollen.

But as the snowflakes fall, they may also pick up other elements in the atmosphere, including pollutants. A study led by a McGill University chemistry professor found that snow absorbs toxic compounds from car exhaust, though scientists say the trace amounts do not reach harmful levels.

Here are a few other things to watch out for:

• Color. We all know to avoid, ahem, yellow snow. But did you know pink or watermelon colored snow is a sign that there’s algae growing in it? Eating it produces the same effect as a laxative.

• Wind. Blowing snow tends to pick up dirt and other contaminants.

• Plowed snow. That pile at the end of the driveway often includes crunchy bits of sand and salt.

— Allie Shah

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Hints from Heloise

Avoid wrinkles with dry cleaning bags

Tracy L. in Grosse Pointe, Mich. writes: When I was packing for my honeymoon, my mother suggested that I place each dress in a dry-cleaning bag to keep it from getting wrinkled. It worked like a charm!

My garments always looked nice because the bags allowed the clothes to slide against one another.

— King Features

Shorten dog walks when it’s cold out

If your dog gets excited by the sight of his or her leash — even in the middle of winter — you might be looking for alternative ways to get in its daily walk.

Consider walking through businesses that allow well-behaved and leashed pets inside, like PetSmart or Petco and some Lowe’s.

If walking indoors is just not enough, Cimarron Animal Hospital in Wichita, Kan., recommends shortening outdoor walks when it is cold.

Even a short walk in freezing temperatures can injure your pet, including cracked paw pads. A dog’s feet, legs and belly may also pick up deicers, antifreeze or other toxic chemicals, so the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends wiping down your pet as soon as you get back inside. Consider pet booties and a sweater or coat.

“If your pet is whining, shivering, seems anxious, slows down or stops moving, seems weak, or starts looking for warm places to burrow, get them back inside quickly because they are showing signs of hypothermia,” the association said.

— Kaitlyn Alanis

Kansas City Star