Have you ever wondered what happens when you swallow a Lego head? Well, six doctors from Australia and the UK decided to find out for themselves by conducting a bizarre experiment that involved eating and excreting the plastic toy pieces.
The doctors, who are all pediatricians, wanted to reassure parents that most swallowed objects are harmless and do not require emergency care. They also wanted to measure how long it takes for a Lego head to pass through the digestive system and come out in the stool.
To do this, they each swallowed a single Lego head and kept a detailed “stool diary” to monitor the hardness and frequency of their bowel movements. They also searched through their poop for the Lego heads and recorded the time it took for them to be found and retrieved. They called this the Found and Retrieved Time (FART) score.
The results of their experiment were published in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health in 2018. They found that the average FART score was 1.71 days, meaning that it took less than two days for the Lego heads to be pooped out. They also noted that there was no significant difference in the stool consistency or frequency between the doctors who swallowed Lego heads and those who did not.
The doctors said that their experiment was a symbol of “dedication to pediatrics” and hoped to prevent parents from spending “needless gross hours searching through poop” for swallowed objects. They also said that their study was done in the “noble tradition of self-experimentation” and cited examples of other researchers who swallowed foreign objects for science.
However, they also warned that not all swallowed objects are benign and that some can be very dangerous. One of them is button batteries, which are small, round batteries often found in electronic toys and devices. Science journalist Sabrina Imbler, who wrote about the experiment for The Defector, said that “button batteries can actually burn through an esophagus in a couple of hours. So they’re very, very dangerous—very different from swallowing a coin or a Lego head.”
The doctors also admitted that their experiment had some limitations, such as the small sample size, the lack of blinding, and the potential for bias. They also acknowledged that swallowing a Lego head may not be representative of swallowing other objects or of swallowing by children. They suggested that further research is needed to confirm their findings and to explore other aspects of swallowing foreign objects.
So, the next time you see your child playing with Lego, don’t panic if they accidentally swallow a piece. Chances are, it will come out in their poop within a couple of days. But if they swallow something else, like a button battery, seek medical attention immediately. And if you’re curious about what happens when you swallow a Lego head yourself, well, you can always try it at your own risk. Just don’t forget to keep a stool diary and look for your FART score.
– 6 doctors swallowed Lego heads for science. Here’s what came out, NPR, January 26, 2023
– What happened when six doctors swallowed Lego heads for science, New York Post, January 31, 2023
– Bizarre: Six doctors swallowed and excreted LEGO toy pieces as part of an experiment, Times Now News, November 27, 2018
– Shit a brick: doctors swallow Lego to allay parents’ fears, The Guardian, November 27, 2018