Study shows Puget Sound “artificially flavored”


A recent study by UW undergraduates at SoundCitizen, which recently moved from Oceanography to the Center for Urban Waters, shows that Puget Sound is awash in vanilla, pain relievers and other man-made compounds.

Findings, published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, show that artificial vanilla and salicylic acid occur in unusually high concentrations in Puget Sound. Artificial vanilla was the most abundant phenol— part of a class of chemical compounds—observed in the sound, occurring at concentrations three orders of magnitude higher than were detected in nearby Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Salicylic acid, a breakdown product of aspirin, was also frequently detected in Puget Sound’s waters.

The research comes as a result of collaboration between SoundCitizen, a citizen science program now headquartered at the Center for Urban Waters, and the University of Washington’s College of the Environment. Organic compounds were evaluated from 88 monitoring locations from Puget Sound to Vancouver Island.

The study, published last September, also identified sixteen man-made compounds in Puget Sound for the first time, and classified an additional eight chemicals as being derived predominantly from human activities even though they also have natural sources, including chemicals in thyme and lemon oil, common in ‘green’ products.


Richard Keil, Keri Salemme, Brittany Forrest, Jaqui Neibauer, Miles Logsdon. Differential presence of anthropogenic compounds dissolved in the marine waters
of Puget Sound, WA and Barkley Sound, BC. September 2011. Marine Pollution Bulletin. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.08.029