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Matthew Alice:

This showed up in our company email. "A terrible diet and a room with no ventilation are blamed for the death of a man who was killed by his own gas.... His diet had consisted of beans and cabbage.... It appears that the man died in his sleep from breathing in the poisonous cloud that was hanging over his bed.... The man was shut up in his hear airtight bedroom. He was 'a big man with a huge capacity for creating [this deadly gas].' Three of the rescue workers got sick and one was hospitalized."

-- Mike, Carlsbad

And before there was email, this twaddle was faxed from office to office. Before that, snail mailed. The natural history of an urban legend. There is no lethal intestinal gas. The story's as improbable as someone sleeping in a truly "airtight" bedroom. True, methane, a fart component, can burn. And there are true stories of intestinal-gas explosions in surgery. But even then, only about a third of the population can produce intestinal methane. That aside, nobody every died from inhaling 'em. But urban legends don't have much to do with the truth. Come to think of it, most emails don't either.

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