Pooping out a Lego piece takes less time than you might think

A team of intrepid doctors swallowed Lego heads for science.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

Much has been said about the hazards of stepping on Lego bricks with bare feet, but there's another potential danger lurking in plastic paradise: accidentally swallowing a piece. So exactly how long will it take to emerge on the other end?

An international team of researchers associated with the pediatric medical blog Don't Forget the Bubbles engaged in an oddball experiment to answer that question. Six doctors each swallowed a Lego head and then searched through their own waste to determine how long it took to poop out the plastic.  

Each doctor logged a Found and Retrieved Time score -- yes, a FART score -- which averaged out to 1.71 days. "A toy object quickly passes through adult subjects with no complications," the team concluded in a study published online last week in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. 

The researchers hope this information might help reassure worried parents, though the study did come with caveats. The doctors were clear the study wasn't particularly rigorous, acknowledging it's "a bit of fun in the run up to Xmas."

The group also cautioned that the data collected from adult subjects may not apply to children who ingest Lego pieces and that the sample size was too small to draw broad conclusions for "the entire population of Lego swallowers."

The study wasn't without a squirm-inducing result: One of the swallowed Lego heads was still missing at the two-week mark. The doctors, however, weren't terribly worried about the disappearance. 

"Perhaps one day many years from now, a gastroenterologist performing a colonoscopy will find it staring back at him," they wrote.

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