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Surprising Science

Diluted Supplies

Traces of cocaine, hormones and spices are among the things found in the drinking water of Puget Sound.

“How’s this for a sweet surprise? A team of researchers in Washington State has found traces of cooking spices and flavorings in the waters of Puget Sound,” writes National Geographic. “University of Washington associate professor Richard Keil heads the Sound Citizen program, which investigates how what we do on land affects our waters. Keil and his team have tracked ‘pulses’ of food ingredients that enter the sound during certain holidays. For instance, thyme and sage spike during Thanksgiving, cinnamon surges all winter, chocolate and vanilla show up during weekends (presumably from party-related goodies), and waffle-cone and caramel-corn remnants skyrocket around the Fourth of July…Around the world, scientists are finding trace amounts of substances—from sugar and spice to heroine, rocket fuel, and birth control—that might be having unintended consequences for humans and wildlife alike.”


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