Giant Waste Lumps Called 'Fatbergs' Are Washing Up on the UK's Coast

From LEGO bricks to unexploded World War II bombs, some very weird (and occasionally dangerous) things have washed up onto waterfronts around the globe. Few of them, however, have had the “ick” factor of fatbergs—large, toxic fat blobs that are sliming their way onto the UK’s shoreline, posing a threat to beach-goers and their pets as temperatures get warmer, the Daily Mail reports.

Fatbergs are solid blobs of congealed fat, oil, or grease. (Fittingly, the name “fatberg” is a combination of “fat” and “iceberg.”) They form in sewers when people dump cooking byproducts down drains, or in oceans when ships legally release sticky waste products like palm oil. Often, a fatberg’s sticky surface will attract other floating trash items, like wet wipes, diapers, condoms, or even syringes. The final product? A giant, germ-covered hunk of lard and garbage that’s harmful to anyone (or anything) that comes near it.

According to the Mirror, the boulder-sized fatbergs of congealed palm oil have drifted over to British beaches from the Caribbean. Lately, the lumps have been spotted in east Sussex and Kent. In the past, they’ve come ashore in pl aces like Cornwall, Devon, and Hampshire.

Officials have warned locals to stay away from the stinky blobs, which look like candle wax and have been described as smelling like “the worst wet dog you’ve ever encountered.” Not only are fatbergs likely covered in bacteria, there’s a risk that pet canines—which might be attracted to the smell of palm oil—will try to taste them. Since the oil is gelatinous, it might get stuck in the esophagus and require surgical removal. In 2014, the Daily Mail writes that several dogs died—and dozens got sick—after nibbling on similar palm oil fatbergs.

Officials are putting up signs on beaches to warn pedestrians of potential fatbergs. In the meantime, what should you do if you encounter one of the blobs? The Cornish Guardian shared advice from a local council spokesman: "We'd suggest keeping children and pets away from the deposits," the councilman said. "And if you come into contact with the substance, wash it off with soap or shower gel and wash your clothes."

While fatbergs are currently threatening the UK's shores, the toxic lumps are perhaps most notorious for mucking up city sewers around the world. In 2013, a 15-ton fatberg about the size of a school bus was removed from London’s sewers. And last February, a crane was required to pull a giant fatberg made of sludge and wet wipes out of a sewer pipe in New South Wales, Australia.

To learn more about what fatbergs are—and why they're bad news—watch the above video, courtesy of BBC News.

[h/t Daily Mail]

All images courtesy of iStock

Can You Really Lose Weight by Pooping? It Depends on What You Eat

If you’re obsessed with either your scale or your bowel movements, you’ve probably wondered: How much of my weight is just poop? A teenage cousin of mine once spent an entire restaurant dinner arguing that he could lose up to 3 pounds if you just gave him a few minutes to sit on the toilet. As you might imagine, he was wrong. But not by that much, according to Thrillist, a site that’s been truly dominating the poop science beat lately.

You can indeed see the effects of a truly satisfying bowel movement reflected on your bathroom scale. (Wash your hands first, please.) But how much your feces weigh depends heavily on your diet. The more fiber you eat, the heavier your poop. Unfortunately, even the most impressive fecal achievement won't tip the scales much.

In 1992, researchers studying the effect of fiber intake on colon cancer risk wrote that the daily movements of poopers across the world could vary anywhere from 2.5 ounces to 1 pound. In their sample of 220 Brits, the median daily poop weighed around 3.7 ounces. A dietary intake of around 18 grams of dietary fiber a day typically resulted in a 5.3-ounce turd, which the researchers say is enough to lower the risk of bowel cancer.

A Western diet probably isn’t going to help you achieve your poop potential, mass-wise. According to one estimate, industrialized populations only eat about 15 grams of fiber per day thanks to processed foods. (Aside from ruining your bragging rights for biggest poop, this also wreaks havoc on your microbiome.) That's why those British poops observed in the study didn't even come close to 1 pound.

Poop isn’t the only thing passing through your digestive tract that has some volume to it. Surprisingly, your fabulous flatulence can be quantified, too, and it doesn’t even take a crazy-sensitive machine to do so. In a 1991 study, volunteers plied with baked beans were hooked up to plastic fart-capturing bags using rectal catheters. The researchers found that the average person farts around 24 ounces of gas a day. The average fart involved around 3 ounces of gas.

This doesn’t mean that either pooping or farting is a solid weight-loss strategy. If you’re hoping to slim down, losing a pound of poop won’t improve the way your jeans fit. Certainly your 24 ounces of gas won't. But to satisfy pure scientific curiosity, sure, break out that scale before and after you do your business. At least you'll be able to see if your fiber intake is up to snuff.

[h/t Thrillist]

Why You Get Diarrhea When You're Hungover

If your hangover mornings involve a lot of time sitting on the toilet, you're not alone. In addition to making you puke your guts out, drinking too much can also give you massive diarrhea the next day. Why? Thrillist talked to a gastroenterologist about the hangover poops, and found that it's a pretty common phenomenon, one caused by a combination of unusually fast-moving digestion.

When you drink, Urvish Shah told the site, alcohol increases what's called gut motility, the contractions that move food along your gastrointestinal tract. Combine this with the fact that booze inhibits vasopressin—the hormone that regulates water retention and prevents your kidneys from immediately dumping whatever liquid you drink into your bladder—and suddenly your guts have become a full-blown water slide.

All those cocktails take a fast-paced thrill ride down to your colon, where your gut bacteria throw a feast. The result is a bunch of gas and diarrhea you don't usually get when food and water are passing through your system a little more slowly. And because it's all rushing through you so fast, the colon isn't absorbing as much liquid as usual, giving you even more watery poops. If you haven't eaten, the extra acidity in your stomach from the booze can also irritate your stomach lining, causing—you guessed it—more diarrhea.

The more concentrated form of alcohol you drink, the worse it's going to be. If you really want to stay out of the bathroom the morning after that party, go ahead and take it easy on the shots. Because beer is so high in carbohydrates, though, Thrillist warns that that will cause gas and poop problems too as the bacteria in your gut start going to town on the undigested carbs that make it to your colon.

All in all, the only way to avoid a post-alcohol poop is to just stop drinking quite as much. Sorry, folks. If you want to rule Saturday night, you'll have to deal with the Sunday morning runs.

[h/t Thrillist]


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