April 3, 2009 | Marcus Varner | Leave a comment Did you hear the one about the guy who coughed up a nail he’d swallowed thirty years previous? Yep, strange but true. The first question that came to mind was, “How did he swallow a goll darn nail?” Then I started to remember all of the weird stuff I ate as a kid. How long does that stuff stay in there? I thought. Simultaneously intrigued and creeped out, I set out to get the answersâ€¦ from Google. Gum – Yeah, we’ve all been told 7 years. Turns out it’s not that much. Scientists insist that our digestive system is much too effective to let a piece of gum stick around for 7 years. Dirt – I hope I wasn’t the only one who chowed down on mud pies as a little tyke. No, I mean pies made of actual mud. What? You didn’t? It turns out this disgusting practice is so rare that people don’t talk about it on the internet. They talk about horses eating dirt and dying from it. They talk about earthworms eating it and creating greenhouse gases. But nothing on kids. I suddenly feel very isolated and gross. Coins – No one knows how long these could last in the stomach because they pass in a few days, albeit painfully. Word has it, though, that the stomach acids actually polish the coin to a sparkle. Better wash and disinfect it before putting it in the display case. Plastic – All those plastic army men, rubber balls, and Barbie hands swallowed every year have no need to fear. The human stomach lacks the enzymes necessary to break down plastic. They get a free pass through the digestion roller coaster. But they’re on their own in the porcelain express. Paper – You know, poor man’s chewing gum. The mouth makes a great disposal hatch in times of need, getting rid of naughty notes or crime scene evidence. However, as much as the paper seems to break up in your saliva and between your molars, your stomach can’t completely break down the cellulose the paper is made of.