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The snowfall expected for this afternoon has started, and you might be tempted to get whimsical and eat some snow. But is catching snowflakes in your mouth, especially in an urban area, safe?

We’re not talking about sludge on the ground here. This is poaching snowflakes out of the air, or if you like to live a little more dangerously, in a pristine white coat on the ground. To get some answers, I asked the District’s Department of the Environment, which covers both of the elements at stake here: air and water.

Unfortunately, according to DOE spokeswoman Donna Henry, the department doesn’t test rain or snow before it’s fallen. Instead, it only tests the water after it’s melted and is headed to bodies of water. On the other hand, Henry says the District doesn’t have an acid rain issue, so your tongue won’t sizzle off.

“I think, of course, there’s some degree of pollution in the snow,” says Henry. Without better testing, it looks like the choice to eat snow is up to you and your personal level of comfort with pollution.

File photo by Mike Hicks.