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6 doctors swallow Lego heads for science

When Dr. Andy Tagg was a toddler, he swallowed a Lego piece. Actually, two, stuck together.

“I thought, well, just put it in your mouth and try and get your teeth between the little pieces,” he says. The next thing he knew, it went down the hatch.

As an emergency physician at Western Health, in Melbourne, Australia, Andy says he meets a lot of anxious parents whose children succumbed to this impulse. The vast majority of kids, like Andy, simply pass the object through their stool within a day or so. Still, Andy wondered whether there was a way to spare parents from needless worry.

Sure, you can reassure parents one-by-one that they probably don’t need to come to the emergency room—or, worse yet, dig through their kid’s poop—in search of the everyday object.

The six doctors devised an experiment, and published the results.

“Each of them swallowed a Lego head,” says science journalist Sabrina Imbler, who wrote about the experiment for The Defector. “They wanted to, basically, see how long it took to swallow and excrete a plastic toy.”

Recently, Sabrina sat down with Short Wave Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber to chart the journey of six lego heads, and what came out on the other side.

The study excluded three criteria:

A previous gastrointestinal surgery

The inability to ingest foreign objects

An “aversion to searching through faecal matter”—the Short Wave team favorite

Researchers then measured the time it took for the gulped Lego heads to be passed. The time interval was given a Found and Retrieved Time (FART) score.



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