Sugar and spice and things that are not so nice. That's what goes into the Puget Sound during the holidays, according to new research.

Two researchers from the University of Washington, Rick Keil and Jacqui Neibauer, tested treated sewage from the Seattle area that was headed for the Puget Sound. They found that levels of cinnamon and vanilla in the water spiked between November 14 and December 9, with the highest levels occurring the week after Thanksgiving. 

Luckily for our finned friends, the two holiday seasonings don't seem to have any negative effects on fish (although it does raise some questions since fish use their sense of smell to find food and locate home streams). But the research sheds light on a much larger and more serious problem: that everything we ingest — from pumpkin pie to Viagra — eventually ends up in the water.

From a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article:

Keil's findings present a light side of what scientists say is potentially a serious situation. Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and other agencies have documented that antibiotics, contraceptives, perfumes, painkillers, antidepressants and other substances pass through people's bodies and the sewage system into waterways.

On a lighter note, researchers calculated the number of cookies Seattle residents consumed each day during Thanksgiving weekend from the levels of cinnamon and vanilla in the water: 160,000 butter or chocolate-chip type cookies and 80,000 cinnamon cookies.

Too bad our traditional holiday foods don’t improve water systems ... but that's the way the cookie crumbles!

This article originally appeared in Plenty in December 2006. The story was added to MNN.com in November 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2006.