These scientists swallowed LEGO heads, measured how long it took to poop them out, and then wrote a scientific paper about it. Yes, really
As every parent knows, kids are always gonna stick stuff in their mouths. Sometimes it belongs there, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it gets spit out, sometimes it gets swallowed. And while there’s a ton of research on how relatively harmless it is for kids to swallow small coins, one doctor noted that the kids he was seeing at the hospital after swallowing foreign objects had often eaten other types of forbidden snacks (like LEGO and other small plastic toys) and that the research about those things winding their way through a toddler’s digestive tract was a little lacking. So he took matters into his own hands (and colon), for science.
Australian ER doctor Andy Tagg recruited five other doctor buddies to help him with this very important scientific study. Then they each picked out a LEGO head and tossed it back with a glass of water. Seriously, you can watch a video of the moment they all sent their little LEGO head buddies on The Incredible Journey.
Then, each doctor spent a few days digging through everything that came out the other end, so they could document exactly how long it took for the LEGO heads to reappear Earthside. The paper, which was published in the Journal of Pediatrics and Children’s Health, includes such very scientific measurements as the Stool Hardness and Transit (SHAT) score and the Found and Retrieved Time (FART) score. Listen, if you completed medical school and are now digging through your own poop to help protect kids, you’re allowed to have a little fun with it.
The doctors found that, on average, it took 1.71 days for a LEGO to complete a Magic Schoolbus-style tour of the human gastrointestinal system. More importantly, they noted that there were no adverse effects to just letting nature run its course, indicating that most kids should be able to pass a swallowed LEGO on their own without a trip to the ER. Parents’ bank accounts everywhere rejoice.
There was one outlier—one of the doctors never pooped out his LEGO head. Did he just get lazy about searching his stool? Did he eat some corn during the experiment and accidentally camouflage it? Or is there still a LEGO head inside him somewhere? The world may never know.
It’s important to note that while most small objects kids swallow can be passed naturally, there are exceptions. Button batteries can cause internal acid burns and may need to be removed surgically. If your child swallows a magnet, a sharp object, or anything larger than a quarter, or if they experience stomach pain or vomiting after swallowing something that isn’t food, you should head to the emergency room.