Video: These Researchers Figured Out Just How Long It Takes to Poop a Lego
A new study has scientists shitting bricks. Lego bricks, to be specific.
Six brave pediatric healthcare professionals swallowed a Lego head — for science. Inspired by the common phenomenon of children exploring the great unknown world with their mouths and the parental panic that follows when they swallow said objects, the scientists departed from commonly researched coinage to take on a much-beloved toy.
Published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health on November 22, the study, performed by these intrepid scientists, determined just how long it takes to poop out a Lego head.
After each swallowing a little yellow plastic bulb — one chose a head adorned with orange-tinted ski goggles, while another went for the classic, simple smile — the researchers waited for the tiny heads to make an appearance down under.
How Long Does It Take to Pass a Lego?
The group developed two metrics to interpret their results: the Stool Hardness and Transit (SHAT) score and the Found and Retrieved Time (FART). The SHAT score allowed researchers to standardize between different bowel habits. “There’s a difference between one who might have three loose poos in a day vs. one hard poo in three days,” Tessa Davis, pediatric consultant at the Royal London Hospital, explains to Inverse.
After establishing a baseline, the group moved to retrieval time. From the bounty of research on children swallowing coins, they already knew that most coins pass somewhere between 3.1-5.8 days without issue. In comparison, Lego heads scored a speedy average retrieval of 1.71 days (just over 41 hours).
To get these results, each scientist underwent the process of hunting through their own stool.
“A variety of techniques were tried — using a bag and squashing, tongue depressors and gloves, chopsticks — no turd was left unturned,” the team explains on their educational pediatrics site Don’t Forget the Bubbles.
Surprisingly, one researcher couldn’t locate his Lego. “I suspect he may have missed it early on,” says Davis, “Or it could be still stuck up there, and when he goes for a colonoscopy in 30 years time, he might see a head smiling back at him.”
If a trained medical professional can’t find a Lego in 13 poop samples over the course of two weeks, the team hopes this assures parents not to stress too much if they have trouble locating swallowed objects as well. They can even skip the stool search altogether.
Why Scientists Put Up With All This Crap
Of course, the peer-reviewed, in-vivo study still runs into limitations. Critics target the small sample size (six participants) and point out that the adult gastrointestinal tract may behave differently than those of children. Limited research about children makes it difficult to draw conclusions, but some research sees no significant difference in colon transit time between healthy children and adults. In their paper, the group argues that objects might pass even faster through a child’s gut.
Moving past the silliness, Davis seeks to bring parents some assurance while approaching the holiday season. If an object makes it to a child’s stomach, more than likely, it will pass without issue. When objects get stuck, or if children swallow bioactive objects like a button battery, parents should seek immediate treatment.
At this point, Davis says the group has no plans to expand the study. “We’re recovering from searching through our own poo.”