It might seem a touch juvenile to even consider the question, but then it’s possible that we are all walking around with the potential to start a fire in our bellies too. Of course, it’s not silly to contemplate any aspect of human life even the ones that make us a touch uncomfortable to discuss them, that’s how we learn.
Farts can be flammable because they contain methane, which is a flammable gas. Farts also can contain oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and hydrogen. The amount of flammable gases can ignite, but is not enough to cause an explosion in most cases.
In fact, methane burns so well and so easily that it can be used as a fuel but does this mean we should worry about our farts spontaneously combusting? Let’s take a look.
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Also read: Is Urine/Pee Flammable? Can It Start a Fire?
What Is A Fart?
As you probably know, a fart (Latin and medical name “flatus”) is what takes place when we release trapped air through the end of our body not normally associated with breathing.
This air can come from a myriad of places. It may be that we have swallowed the air when we were eating, drinking, or talking. It could be caused by gas being released by reactions in our intestines and blood. It might be the byproduct of bacterial reactions in our guts.
It is the last two items on the list, which tend to make up less than 1% of the volume of a fart, that give farts their unpleasant odor as they both contain sulfur.
Are Farts Flammable?
Yes, to some extent they are.
Farts contain methane at a concentration of about 4%. Methane is highly flammable and can even be used as a fuel.
However, because of the low concentration of methane in farts, you shouldn’t spend too much time worrying about your farts spontaneously combusting, they don’t and to light a fart (please, don’t do this at home as you might burn yourself) requires a source of ignition (a flame or spark).
What about spontaneous human combustion (SHC)? Well, we’ve looked at this question elsewhere on this site and it’s fair to conclude from the science that SHC isn’t something that actually happens and if it did happen, it would not be related to farts.
Read more about this here: What Does A Burning Body Smell Like? Firefighter Answered
Are Farts Explosive?
You could argue that the sound of a fart sounds like an explosion and we certainly wouldn’t waste any drinking time arguing against you but no, farts are not explosive.
While methane can “explode” if it catches fire, there’s simply not enough methane in a fart to cause any kind of fiery explosion.
The Art Of Setting Farts On Fire Is Called Pyroflatulence
Yes, there are people foolish enough to set fire to their own farts and the habit is known as pyroflatulence.
Fortunately, to date, researchers haven’t spent much time working out why anyone would want to do this for fun.
Though people certainly do try, take a look:
Farting Is Natural And We All Do It
We should point out that farting is an entirely natural process and that everyone farts. Yes, including women, even women that say they don’t fart, in fact.
Each living human being produces about half a liter of fart gas each day and because women tend to be smaller than men, it will be more concentrated for a woman than a man.
Fortunately, most of us do not pass wind once a day, because it could take a while to shift a half-liter of gas through our bottoms.
The reality is that, on average, we pass wind about 14 times a day each. You may be alarmed to know that the gas can move as fast as 10 feet per second after it has been expelled! Though, it typically takes about 10-15 seconds before it’s detectable by a human nose.
Should I Hold In My Farts?
If you’re thinking about holding in your farts because you’re worried that they might be a fire risk, don’t bother, there’s not enough methane in a fart to worry about.
However, if you’re in the middle of a job interview or doing something important and you’d prefer not to be embarrassed by the noise or worse, the smell of a fart?
Well, scientists seem to be in two minds about this. One group argues that farting is simply a digestive process and if you don’t absolutely have to fart, then holding in a fart is no big deal.
The other argues that holding in a fart might cause digestive bloating and other forms of dietary unpleasantness.
All we can offer is that the fire service holds no official position on whether you should hold in your farts but notes that you don’t need to worry about a fart burning down your home.
You should know that you can’t hold your farts forever, though, and if you do hold them in during the day, you’re going to fart all night long while you sleep.
Farts Are Not Always Offensive
There are places on Earth where farting isn’t as big a deal as it is in Western culture. Some nations hold that it’s polite to fart (and/or burp) after a meal and in the Amazon jungle, there’s a tribe of Indians that greets people with farts.
However, we’d suggest checking out fart etiquette where you are before just letting rip indiscriminately.
Farts After Death
When people die, they release flatus for a period of up to three hours following their death! Fortunately, even amidst all this farting, the amount of methane present does not constitute a fire or explosion hazard.
Post-death farting stops when rigor mortis sets in.