Scientists Study Flatulence on Planes

Passengers have been publicly chastised over the years for a variety of bodily functions – usually because they were performed in the wrong place at the wrong time. Such indiscretions include mistaking an aircraft aisle for a toilet but so far science has no cure for that [Editor’s note: cut off the alcohol?].

The academic community does however have suggestions about flatulence on planes.

Listen to Rick Seaney’s heroic attempt to keep a straight face in this explosive chat.

Fabled stories about drunks on planes

Report: Gas on Planes – Not Good

You heard right.  An international team of gastroenterologists just published a study in the New Zealand Medical Journal with the scholarly title, “Flatulence on airplanes: just let it go”. And they mean what they say.

Tight Quarters Amp Up Gas Production

As the researchers note, the act of passing gas is a “natural and an invariable consequence of digestion” but there are times when it poses a social dilemma due to A.) noise and B.) odor. These problems are exacerbated by when you consider that modern airlines cram hundreds of people in the least amount of space possible where altered cabin pressure goes to work, creating “changes in volume of intestinal gases [and] increasing the amount of potential flatus” [Too much information? There’s more – much more].

The stink from not showering can get you tossed off a plane

Holding In vs. Letting Go

While letting go may result in embarrassment, keeping it in can be physically harmful, resulting in discomfort and/or pain, bloating, dyspepsia (indigestion), pyrosis (heartburn) and other abdominal difficulties not to mention the subsequent stress from the required concentration to maintain control over, uh, keeping it in [not to mention keeping a straight face while writing this].

Gas in the Cockpit

Yes, pilots too are plagued with this all-too-human malady but here the problem could affect their ability to control the plane, due to the aforementioned concentration required to hold it in, which might affect a pilot’s “abilities to control the plane.” On the other hand, if he goes ahead and creates a little turbulence, the co-pilot may be affected by the odor “which again reduces safety onboard the flight.” [No, we could not make this up].

Sometime kissing on a plane will get you kicked off

And the Solution Is -

Charcoal. As the authors of the study put it, “we humbly propose that active charcoal should be embedded in the seat cushion, since this material is able to neutralize the odor. Moreover active charcoal may be used in trousers and blankets to emphasize this effect” [and as passengers are handed their personal lumps of charcoal upon boarding, you can be sure there will be a fee for that].

Commenters Let Loose

Best part of this story [besides everything] – the comments on a New Zealand website:

  • Conspiracy-minded comment: “This could be related to many Bermuda triangle flight incandescences.”
  • Regretful comment: “Many years ago I was told that farts don’t smell at 10,000 feet. I am so embarrassed. Apologies to my fellow passengers.”
  • Clueless comment: “If they allow farting on aircraft they should modify the windows so they can be opened for fresh air.”

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Published: February 18, 2013