Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 83, Issue 3–4, pp 315–334 | Cite as

Genotoxicity of snow in the Montreal metropolitan area

  • Paul A. White
  • Joseph B. Rasmussen
  • Christian Blaise


Snow is capable of scavenging particle-bound, mutagenic organic pollutants from the atmosphere. Between storms snow can act as a mechanical filter for airborne particulates and dry atmospheric fallout can contribute to contamination of the snowpack. In urban areas snow cover can store contaminants and provide a sensitive, time integrated record of local air contamination. We examined the genotoxicity of snow collected from 14 sites in the Montréal metropolitan area. Snow contaminants were extracted using dichloromethane and the genotoxicity of the extracts measured using the SOS Chromotest. Only one extract elicited a positive response in the absence of a metabolic activation mixture. Sites which provided genotoxic samples are diverse in nature. Some sites are adjacent to highways and might be expected to receive genotoxic contaminants from internal combustion vehicles. Extracts of snow from regional dump sites were not genotoxic. Mean ambient carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide levels were significantly higher at sites which provided genotoxic snow samples. The mean ambient concentration of suspended particulates at the positive sites was not significantly different from the concentration at the negative sites. However, a significant linear relationship was identified between the SOS response inducing potency (SOSIP) of the genotoxic samples and the ambient level of suspended particulates. The results presented confirm the presence of genotoxic material in urban snow and demonstrate that the SOS Chromotest can be used to rapidly screen complex environmental extracts for genotoxicity. High ambient levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide measured at positive sites, and the relationship between SOSIP and the concentration of airborne particulate matter, suggests that the putative genotoxicants are fuel combustion by-products. This conclusion, while supported by previous research on atmospheric, particle-bound mutagens, is still speculative.


Nitrogen Dioxide Ambient Level Airborne Particulate Matter Snow Sample Dump Site 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul A. White
    • 1
  • Joseph B. Rasmussen
    • 1
  • Christian Blaise
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada
  2. 2.The St. Lawrence Center, Conservation and ProtectionEnvironment CanadaLongueuilCanada

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