Human explosives?

I once read, in one of those squibs at the bottom of the page of a kids’ magazine, that “if all the chemicals in your body were combined in a certain way, you’d explode”.

Any truth to this at all?

Sure; there’s carbon, sulphur and phosphates/nitrates; you could make gunpowder at least, probably other stuff too, but the problem would be all the water.

…And of course if you split the water into Hydrogen and Oxygen, then light it… BOOM!

Well, if you split the water into hydrogen and oxygen, and had them conveniently nearby when the gunpowder went off, that might help(?) your project.


I see.

I figured it was one of those quasi-truths that makes a good soundbite.

The same magazine told me that there’s enough lead in the human body to make 40 pencils. But that was in the '70s, when health codes were less stringent.

Pencils don’t contain lead; it’s graphite (a form of carbon) and there probably is plenty enough carbon in a human body to make the pencils, processing it into a useful form is again the issue.

Eh, you can’t be remembering that right–they couldn’t possibly have said that, because if there really were that much lead in the human body, the body in question would be dead.

If that much lead were naturally present in the human body, why is the EPA so concerned about such extremely tiny possible sources of lead in the environment, if you’re already carrying 40 pencils’ worth of lead around with you?

Here’s the chemical composition of the human body, in percentages.

I don’t see lead mentioned at all. So either you’re remembering the factoid wrong, or the magazine was totally off the wall. Maybe they were speaking with exaggeration and talking about the amount of lead poisoning that people could walk around with and not be dead? Still, though, “40 pencils’ worth” seems extreme.

According to this, the fatal dose of absorbed lead is 0.5 grams.

Other things that weigh 0.5 grams:
One of these herbal capsules.
A newborn koala.
Lentils.The average Spanish Brown lentil is 4.4 mm in diameter and weighs 4.0 grams per 100 seeds. So if 100 lentils are 4 grams, then 1/8 of that would be 0.5 grams, so 1/8 of 100 lentils would be 12.5 lentils, so the fatal dose of lead would be the same as 12.5 Spanish Brown lentils. Which seems like a smaller amount than “40 pencils’ worth”, even allowing for the wood.

Whoa, DDG: that’s a wealth of information!

I may very well be remembering the factoid wrong. But I’m fairly sure I remember “40 pencils” (or was it 30)? They also claimed that the human body could produce enough whitewash to cover “a barn”. :rolleyes:

I don’t believe it was about lead poisoning though, because this was not a warning, just a Fun Fact.

FTR, it was World magazine. Y’know, Nat’l Geo for kids? How credible are/were they?

It’s Carbon, not lead; lead(the metallic element) is not used in the manufacture of pencils.

Here’s a site with some statistics like the ones you mention (I make no claims about the veracity of the information therein):

So, tell me, Mangetout: just how much human lead does it take to manufacture one pencil again?

duck and runs :wink:

The human body contains enough lead, uranium and coconuts to make an infinite number of pencils; now that’s amazing.