The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 12-03-2012, 10:39 PM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Is it dangerous to breathe flatulence?

I know it's often unpleasant, but is intestinal fart gas dangerous to health in any meaningful sense? For example, has anyone been told by a doctor that they need to spend less time in enclosed spaces where a lot of people are farting because they are breathing too much of it and it is causing health problems?

E.g.

Patient: "I have a headache all the time."
Doctor: <performs examination>
Patient: "What is it, doctor?"
Doctor: "It looks like you have hyperhenogeical displasia. This is often caused by inhaling excessive intestinal gas."
Patient: "Intestinal gas? You mean farts? Oh, I work in a small office next to three guys who eat beans for lunch every day."
Doctor: "That could be it. Can you open a window?"
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 12-04-2012, 05:53 AM
Colophon Colophon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
I very much doubt it. Flatus, even when it's stinky, is still mostly plain old air so I doubt the concentration of anything noxious is going to be high enough to do you any harm, barring some sort of Human Caterpillar-style delivery.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 12-04-2012, 07:09 AM
don't ask don't ask is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 16,114
It's pretty dangerous if you are breathing it out! Fecal breath odor

Last edited by don't ask; 12-04-2012 at 07:12 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 12-04-2012, 07:20 AM
running coach running coach is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Riding my handcycle
Posts: 15,528
According to Wiki, >99% is plain air.
Quote:
Flatus (intestinal gas) is mostly produced as byproduct bacterial fermentation in the gastroinestinal (GI) tract, especially the colon.[6] There are reports of aerophagia (excessive air swallowing) causing excessive intestinal gas, but this is considered rare.[7] >99% of the volume of flatus is composed of non-odorant gases.[5] These include oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane. Nitrogen is not produced in the gut, but a component of environmental air. Patients who have excessive intestinal gas that is mostly composed of nitrogen may have aerophagia.[8] Hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane are all produced in the gut and contribute 74% of the volume of flatus in normal subjects.[9] Methane and hydrogen are flammable, and so flatus containing adequate amounts of these can be ignited.[citation needed] However, not all humans produce flatus that contains methane. For example, in one study of the feces of nine adults, only five of the samples contained archaea capable of producing methane.[10]

The remaining trace (<1% volume) compounds give flatus its odor. Historically, compounds such as indole, skatole, ammonia and short chain fatty acids were thought to cause the odor of flatus. More recent evidence proves that the major contribution to the odor of flatus comes from a combination of volatile sulfur compounds (VSC).[11][5] It is known that hydrogen sulfide (H2S), methyl mercaptan (MM, methanethiol, MT), dimethyl sulfide (DMS), dimethyl disulfide (DMDS) and dimethyl trisulfide (DMTS) are present in flatus. The Benzopyrrole volatiles indole & skatole actually have a mothball type odor,[12] and therefore probably do not contribute greatly to the characteristic odor of flatus.
Not exactly a dangerous concentration.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 12-04-2012, 07:53 AM
simster simster is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 7,065
Only if consuming it directly from the source.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 12-04-2012, 11:13 AM
drastic_quench drastic_quench is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Short of a canary, I'll find out with this gerbil.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 12-04-2012, 11:17 AM
Sicks Ate Sicks Ate is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: KS, US
Posts: 4,283
Quote:
Originally Posted by don't ask View Post
It's pretty dangerous if you are breathing it out! Fecal breath odor
Fantastic name/post combination.


I really didn't need to know that.

Last edited by Sicks Ate; 12-04-2012 at 11:18 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 12-04-2012, 12:03 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: SF Bay Area, California
Posts: 10,432
The Marquis de Sade apparently had a bit of a fetish about this. Insomuch as he made it to 74, it doesn't seem to have done that much damage.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 12-04-2012, 12:09 PM
Jake Jake is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: NC, USA
Posts: 3,399
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sicks Ate View Post
Fantastic name/post combination.


I really didn't need to know that.
Band Name! (Fecal Breath Odor)

Last edited by Jake; 12-04-2012 at 12:10 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 12-04-2012, 12:44 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Springfield, IL
Posts: 17,967
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jake View Post
Band Name! (Fecal Breath Odor)
Disney-channel boy band, I assume?
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 12-04-2012, 02:37 PM
Colophon Colophon is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by runner pat View Post
According to Wiki, >99% is plain air.

Not exactly a dangerous concentration.
That's not what the link says. ">99% of the volume of flatus is composed of non-odorant gases.[5] These include oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane.... Hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane are all produced in the gut and contribute 74% of the volume of flatus in normal subjects."

So 99% is non-stinky, but that doesn't make it plain air (despite what I asserted above). But hydrogen, CO2 and methane are not toxic. The only risk is if the concentration is high enough to displace oxygen and cause asphyxiation. 74% of a few farts isn't going to displace the breathable air in the room.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 12-04-2012, 11:46 PM
nion nion is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Mythbusters did this, believe it or not. Jamie laid in a small plexiglas room with the maximum possible amount of farts per hour (they used an equivalent gas) being pumped in for a number of hours. I think the myth was about it being possible to fart yourself to death in your sleep. I really wish I was kidding. Anyways, oxygen levels never dipped to a dangerous level, so myth busted.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:20 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.