It’s a hard to believe scenario with multiple layers: yes, vanilla extract is found in our waterways around the holidays in embarrassing quantities, courtesy of our sewer systems.

Worse, it’s mostly artificial vanilla extract – not even the real thing. But that’s not all.

Today we took a look at the oddly spicey pollutants in our waters at this time of year, and where artificial vanilla flavor really comes from.

Spoiler: it’s probably best that you not be eating when you listen to this one, and our story has to do with a furry, water-loving animal called a beaver.

Image: Engraving of a Beaver. Thomas Pennant, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons