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6 scientists swallowed legos to find out if parents really need to worry about small plastic toys

They swallowed small lego heads to see how much time it would take to excrete them.

6 scientists swallowed legos to find out if parents really need to worry about small plastic toys
Image Source: Getty Images/By Tali Blankfeld

Toddlers are curious beings, without a doubt. They often want to know about everything, even how they smell or taste. Since they have not developed any knowledge of what might cause harm to themselves, they tend to swallow random objects. It makes all parents extremely anxious about their toddlers, given they could be swallowing anything. Parents fear for their little ones' safety and go to great lengths to avoid such incidents happening. From keeping different objects out of the kids' reach or supervising to going through a child's poop, they do everything to safeguard their child's health. Dr. Andy Tagg also swallowed two Lego pieces stuck together as a toddler. He told NPR, "I thought, well, just put it in your mouth and try and get your teeth between the little pieces. He didn't realize that he had accidentally swallowed it. 

Image Source: Getty Images/Cavan Images
Image Source: Getty Images/Cavan Images


Andy explains that as an emergency physician at Western Health in Melbourne, Australia, he encounters a lot of worried parents whose children succumbed to this desire. Though the great majority of children, like Andy, just pass the thing through their stool after a few days. Still, Andy wondered whether there was a method to relieve parents of unnecessary concern. You may reassure parents one by one that they don't need to go to the emergency room or worse, rummage through their child's poop to find the object. However, Andy and five other physicians wondered if there was a way to spread this message.

The six doctors designed an experiment and reported the findings. Sabrina Imbler, a science journalist, wrote about the experiment for The Defector. She said, "Each of them swallowed a Lego head. They wanted to, basically, see how long it took to swallow and excrete a plastic toy." Sabrina recently got down with Short Wave Scientist in Residence Regina G. Barber to discuss the voyage of six Lego heads and what came out on the other side. Three criteria were eliminated from the study, an earlier gastrointestinal surgery, an inability to consume foreign things and an "aversion to searching through fecal matter." 



The time it took for the gulped Lego heads to be passed was then measured. A Found and Retrieved Time (FART) score was assigned to the time interval. Andy Tagg and his team also sought to raise awareness about a few things that are dangerous to children if swallowed. One significant example is "button batteries," which are tiny, round, wafer-shaped batteries commonly used in electronic toys. Sabrina said, "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 conclusion of the study was, "A toy object quickly passes through adult subjects with no complications. This will reassure parents and the authors advocate that no parent should be expected to search through their child's feces to prove object retrieval." They added, "This international, multicentre trial identified that small objects, such as those swallowed by children, are likely to pass in 1–3 days without complication. This should offer reassurance for parents."

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