The Last Supper
1993 Urban Legend
(25 March 1993)
A terrible diet and room with no ventilation are being blamed for the death of a man killed by his own gas. There were no marks found on his body, but an autopsy revealed the presence of large amounts of methane dissolved in his blood.
His diet had consisted primarily of beans and cabbage, just the right combination of foods to produce a severe gas attack. It appears that the man died in his sleep from breathing the poisonous cloud that was hanging over his bed.
Had his windows been open, the flatulence wouldn't have been fatal, but the man was shut up in a nearly airtight bedroom. He was an obese man with an unlimited capacity for creating the deadly gas. Three rescuers became sick and one was hospitalized.
Carl Sagan determined that aliens could deduce the presence of carbon-based life on Earth by spectral analysis of our atmosphere. Detection of methane would prove continuous bioproduction of the molecule, since it breaks down rapidly in contact with oxygen. He further demonstrated that the largest single source of methane in our atmosphere is from bovine flatulence, with particularly large concentrations above the cattle producing states of the US and in Argentina. A single cow fart is significantly larger than a human's production all day.
An odd claim from Arthur Henry: "The reference to cow farts is incorrect. Cows, like hippos, emit methane as a result of belching from their mouths; not from farting from their other ends. This is because they hold their food in a partially digested state in their multiple stomachs until it is useable for nutrition lower down."
The whole story is disputed by Ian A. York and Kenneth T. Lim, who say: "Refer to to York's research on the volume and quantity of flatulence, and the fact that methane molecules break down very rapidly in the presence of oxygen. If you multiply the total volume of air in an average bedroom by 21% (for the percent of oxygen in air) you will arrive at a figure far greater than that needed to dissipate a mere 6 liters of pure methane, a figure way too high for flatulence, which is not 100% methane."
New alert! Iain says we left out a crucial part: "I heard that when three men entered the room to figure out just what was happening, they also inhaled a great amount of the gas, and all three were hospitalized for methane poisoning. None died."
David F. Mayer says, "Methane Gas Is NON-Toxic. It does not support respiration, but neither does ANY other gas except oxygen. Like all non-toxic gases, including nitrogen, it causes suffocation."