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anses

French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

Artificial snow

Artificial snow

Assessment of the health risks associated with the use of additives for artificial snow production.

Updated on 04/08/2016

Keywords : Water, Artificial snow

Artificial snowmaking is a type of technology used for many years to address the phenomenon of increased nighttime temperatures in winter and a steady decrease in precipitation. Artificial snow production is currently an unregulated practice requiring the use of additives. Within this context, the Agency assessed the safety for use of one of these additives, Snomax®. Considering the possibility of a risk to professionals involved in snowmaking, the Agency made recommendations on precautions for use and the monitoring of these workers as well as more general recommendations concerning the water used for artificial snow production.

Artificial snowmaking is a type of technology used for many years by ski resort operators, particularly in the Alps, faced with the phenomenon of increased nighttime temperatures in winter and a steady decrease in precipitation, with its implications for snow cover.
Incorporating additives in the manufacture of artificial snow is a technology used by ski resorts to ensure that there is sufficient snow on their ski slopes in weather conditions unfavourable for natural snow. This practice is unregulated.

The additive Snomax® was used for manufacturing artificial snow by 23 of the approximately 300 ski resorts in France between 1992 and 2005. Because it is a biological product containing the inactivated bacterium Pseudomonas syringae strain 31a, whose use has an unknown impact on health, the Agency was asked to produce:

  • a report on the international regulatory status of the product Snomax®,
  • a scientific review of studies available on health risks associated with its use,
  • an overall assessment of the health risk of the product Snomax® with respect to recreational users of the ski runs as well as workers, and the susceptible population of children in particular.

 

Anses’s assessment

Depending on the possible types of exposure and the population groups concerned, the qualitative appraisal of the health risks associated with the use of Snomax® showed a level of risk:

  • “nil to negligible” or effectively “negligible” for the majority of the population groups concerned, with the exception of professional snowmakers, which does not require any particular recommendation,
  • “negligible to low” for professional snowmakers, which therefore calls for recommendations in terms of precautions for use and monitoring.

The Agency wishes to draw the attention of ski resort managers to:

  • the need for monitoring the microbiological quality of water used in the production of artificial snow, given that water of poor microbiological quality could pose a health risk for both users of the slopes and workers, with regard to exposure pathways identified in snowmaking. On this point the Agency emphasises the importance of a measurement campaign on the quality of the water used;
  • the use of additives other than Snomax®, especially for maintenance of the snowpack, which may, under certain conditions, degrade the quality of soils and water resources as the snow melts. Water intake points used for the drinking water supply, particularly due to their immediate proximity to the slopes, appear to be especially vulnerable to potential risks associated with these additives and the microbiological quality of the water used for making artificial snow.

In addition, the assessment of environmental risks related to the use of Snomax® was the subject of an expert appraisal by the French Agricultural and Environmental Engineering Research Centre (ex- CEMAGREF, now IRSTEA).

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