Have you ever wondered why farts smell so bad? What reactions are taking place inside your stomach that might make you gaseous? Maybe you have asked yourself if you could successfully catch your own flatus or a friends flatulence on fire. In this project, I will be taking the time necessary to answering these questions for you and friends, even you don’t want to know the answer. In a more mature term, we shall be discussing the the chemical composition of “flatulence”.
To begin with, a fun fact would be that, an average healthy male produces approximately six hundred milliliters of gas everyday. A fart is made up of roughly fifty-nine percent Nitrogen, twenty-one percent hydrogen, nine percent carbon dioxide, seven percent methane and approximately 1 percent is oxygen. All of the said gases i just mentioned in farts are basically odorless. However it is the approximately less than one percent of gas that makes farts actually smell
Flatulence generally smells according to a person diet. You can expect that a person who is a vegetarian, will have different smelling farts than that of an individual who eats meat. Some of the chemicals that can attribute to the smell of a fart are as follows; “Skatole” or scientifically known as Methylindole, the molecular formula is C9H9N, this is the substance that gives a stool it’s foul smelling odor. Methanethiol is CH4S, which is a colorless with a putrid smell. Next we have Dimethyl Sulfide, (CH3)2S, and another important ingredient is Hydrogen Sulfide which has similar characteristics of a rotten eggs odor and is also considered to be flammable, H2S. The more sulfur-rich your diet is, the more smelly your farts with be. Foods that can cause excessively stinky are, but not limited to eggs, cabbage, soda, beans and cheese (Anatomy of a Fart, Muscle and Fitness).
What makes a fart able to successfully be lit on fire? The answer would be that there is a handful of different chemical compounds being expelled from an individual’s body during flatulation. These chemicals consist of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, methane, nitrogen and oxygen. The gases that are most likely to ignite during flatulation after passing through some sort of ignition source are the hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide and methane. When these gases are ignited, they react with the oxygen and in the air and the fart to produce oxides and water.
As a disclaimer to anybody reading this, I do not condone the ignition of flatulence and I will not be held accountable for somebody being injured trying to catch their farts on fire. However from a more scientific standpoint, the fact of the matter is that hydrogen is what can be found most in flatulence. If an individual happens to ignite a fart and it burns with a yellow/orange flame, it means that it was predominately made of hydrogen. On the other hand, if you witness a fart with a blue flame, this means that there was more methane present in the fart. Accordingly to studies, farts containing methane and producing blue fire farts is considered to be rare and somewhat of a special talent. If you eat food high in sulfur, this would be how to increase the possibility of the infamous “blue dart” or “blue angel” (Anatomy of a Fart, Muscle and Fitness).
Most bowel gas is produced in the intestinal lumen. Carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane are produced here in appreciable quantities. Carbon dioxide is generated intraluminally from the interaction of hydrogen ions plus bicarbonate ions. This reaction is catalyzed by carbonic anhydrase. Carbon dioxide may also be liberated from the digestion of triglycerides to fatty acids. Most of this carbon dioxide is produced in the duodenum and is absorbed into the blood as it travels toward the colon. The majority of carbon dioxide in flatus comes from bacterial fermentation (Flatus 2007).
Hydrogen production in the bowel occurs during bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates in the colon. Specifically, oligosaccharides found in fruits and legumes produce hydrogen gas when fermented by colonic bacteria. Hydrogen gas may also be produced by fermentation of mucoproteins by fecal bacteria (Flatus 2007).
Hydrogen gas is also consumed by methane producing bacteria called methanogens. If methanogens are the predominant intestinal flora, virtually all the gas is consumed intraluminally and does not appear in the flatus. The major methanogen in the human colon, Methanobrevibacter smithii, produces methane through the reaction (Flatus 2007):
4H2 + CO2 → CH4 + 2H2O
Approximately one-third of adults have large concentrations of methanogens in their colons and produce significant quantities of methane in their flatus. The majority of gases in flatus are non-odoriferous. The noxious odor of flatus is due to trace amounts of hydrogen sulfide. This gas gives a smell similar to rotten eggs (Flatus 2007).
Methane is over twenty times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Cows are estimated to count of up to twenty-three percent, even thirty seven percent of the global greenhouse gas of human-induced methane emissions, that is as much as we are producing by burning fossil fuels. Scientist and farmers are trying to find ways to reduce epidemic.
Now that you know more information on flatulence than you ever cared to know about, you can go home and teach your friends and family about the fun facts pertaining to what makes a fart, a fart. You were also informed as to what happens in your bowels to create methane gases and the specific chemical reaction in which takes place. Methane is a greenhouse gas, which means it absorbs the suns heat and warms the atmosphere. Humans may fart a lot, but not enough to effect the atmosphere. However, cows farts and burps do, and when cow pies decompose is when it releases the most methane gas into the atmosphere. This is an issue because its 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, although it doesn’t linger in the atmosphere as long.
(2015). What Are Farts Made Of? Retrieved November 14, 2016, from http://chemistry.about.com/od/medicalhealth/f/What-Is-The-Chemical-Composition-Of-Farts.htm
“The Anatomy of a Fart | Muscle & Fitness.” Muscle & Fitness – Workouts, Nutrition Tips, Supplements & Advice. Web. <http://www.muscleandfitness.com/features/edge/anatomy-fart>. brown chicken brown cow brown chicken brown cow a cow and smell bad ha ha
“Flatus.” World of Anatomy and Physiology, Gale, 2007. Science in Context, ez1.maricopa.edu:2048/login?url=http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/scic/ReferenceDetailsPage/ReferenceDetailsWindow?disableHighlighting=false&displayGroupName=Reference&currPage=&scanId=&query=&prodId=SCIC&search_within_results=&p=SCIC&mode=view&catId=&limiter=&display-query=&displayGroups=&contentModules=&action=e&sortBy=&documentId=GALE%7CCV2430500157&windowstate=normal&activityType=&failOverType=&commentary=&source=Bookmark&u=mcc_chandler&jsid=5b6d1b8cea0916daca45115a2052437d. Accessed 17 Nov. 2016.
Liebman, Bonnie. “Who ya gonna call? GasBusters. (Cover Story).” Nutrition Action Healthletter, May 2003, p. 1+. Science in Context, ez1.maricopa.edu:2048/login?url=http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/scic/NewsDetailsPage/NewsDetailsWindow?disableHighlighting=false&displayGroupName=News&currPage=&scanId=&query=&prodId=SCIC&search_within_results=&p=SCIC&mode=view&catId=&limiter=&display-query=&displayGroups=&contentModules=&action=e&sortBy=&documentId=GALE%7CA100959890&windowstate=normal&activityType=&failOverType=&commentary=&source=Bookmark&u=mcc_chandler&jsid=3bb6720479bc9ff427b09b8b4dbb8c65. Accessed 22 Nov. 2016.