The Sciences

NCBI ROFL: Farts: an underappreciated threat to astronauts.

DiscoblogBy ncbi roflJan 12, 2012 11:57 PM

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Intestinal hydrogen and methane of men fed space diet. "Intestinal bacteria form two gases, hydrogen (H2) and methane (CH4), that could constitute a fire hazard in a closed chamber. So H2 and CH4 pass from the anus but these gases are also transported by the blood to the lungs and removed to the atmosphere. Several factors affect gas formation: 1) amount and kind of fermentable substrate; 2) abundance, types, and location of microflora; and 3) psychic and somatic conditions that affect the gut. We evaluated the first factor by studying men fed different diets and have also recorded influences of uncontrollable factors. One group of 6 men ate Gemini-type diet (S) and another received a bland formula (F), for 42 days. Breath and rectal gases were analyzed during the first and final weeks. Flatus gases varied widely within dietary groups but much more gas was generated with diet S than with F. In the first 12-hour collection, subjects fed S passed 3 to 209 ml (ATAP) of rectal H2 (avg 52) and 24 to 156 ml (avg 69) from the lungs (assuming normal pulmonary ventilation). With F, these values were 0 to 3 ml (avg 1) and 6 to 36 ml (avg 20). Subjects were calmer during the second test. Gas production was lower with S than initially; F values were unchanged. Methane differed idiosyncratically, presumably due to differences in flora. Computed from 12-hour values, maximum potential daily H2 and CH4 are per man: for S, 730 ml and 382 ml; for F, 80 and 222 ml. Volumes would be larger at reduced spacecraft and suit pressures."

Photo: flickr/gnews pics

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