Doctors Investigate Baby For Spontaneous Human Combustion

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A 3-month-old Indian baby has reportedly burst into flames several times without any obvious cause, leading doctors to investigate the possibility of spontaneous human combustion.

Gawker reports the baby’s parents moved to a nearby village after neighbors feared the child could set their homes on fire. Eventually the family turned to government authorities for treatment at a hospital.

The New York Times’ India Ink blog, also covering the story, reports the vast majority of scientists are skeptical about SHC although the theory has gained some supporters. “In 2011,” the blog reports, “An Irish coroner listed spontaneous human combustion as the cause of the death of a 76-year-old Irishman who was found charred to death but with no apparent source of the fire.”

In a 2012 article in The New Scientist, British research biologist Brian J. Ford suggested SHC may be tied to a heightened presence of the inflammable chemical acetone, which is produced and disposed by the human body.

“There have been a few cases where people have suffered S.H.C. and have swatted the flames out, leading to their complete recovery,” said Mr. Ford in an e-mail to the Times, “In most examples it is fatal, as the cases are found after the event. Typically, there is just a pile of ash with protruding extremities.”

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