Stinky prob­lem

Focus-Science and Technology - - Reply -

The ar­ti­cle on the hu­man mi­cro­biome ( Jan­uary) is a nice over­view of our re­la­tion­ship to micro­organ­isms, but it con­tains a sig­nif­i­cant er­ror. When dis­cussing the role of these or­gan­isms in the hu­man gut, it states that meth­ane is the smelly com­po­nent of farts. Sorry, meth­ane is odour­less. It is for this rea­son that methyl mer­cap­tan, an organosul­phur com­pound that is eas­ily smelled, is added to meth­ane used as a fuel. The smell of farts is largely due to hy­dro­gen sul­phide, along with other odour con­trib­u­tors. Ken­neth Koutz, Cal­i­for­nia

You’re ab­so­lutely right and we apol­o­gise for this er­ror. Meth­ane is a com­po­nent of the gases re­leased by gut bac­te­ria that make up farts, but nat­u­ral meth­ane is in­deed odour­less and NOT the smelly com­po­nent of farts. The pun­gent smell of farts comes from other gases in the mix, hy­dro­gen sul­phide be­ing one of the smelli­est along with methanethiol. – Mun Keat Looi, sci­ence writer

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