Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sad news for bagpipers

It seems bagpipes may hold a hidden hazard for their players.  The Telegraph reports:

Playing the bagpipes could be deadly, scientists have warned, after a man died from continually breathing in mould and fungus trapped in the instrument.

Doctors in Manchester have identified the condition "bagpipe lung" following the death of a 61-year-old man from chronic inflammatory lung condition hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

The condition is triggered by the immune system’s response to an inhaled environmental irritants and is often associated with exposure to feathers and bird droppings.

When the unnamed man was first diagnosed in 2009 doctors were puzzled by his condition because he was not a pigeon fancier, his house contained no mould or signs of water damage and he had never smoked.

However, he played the bagpipes daily, and when his condition improved when he left his pipes at home during a three-month visit to Australia doctors believed they had found the cause.

Samples were taken from several areas inside the bagpipes, including the bag, the neck, and the chanter reed protector and were found to contain six types of mould and fungi.

It is thought the that the moist conditions inside the bag allowed mould and fungi to grow, which was then inhaled by the man who experienced breathlessness and eventually could not walk more than 20 yards.

Despite treatment, the man died recently and a post mortem examination revealed extensive lung damage consistent with acute respiratory distress syndrome including lung tissue scarring.

. . .

There have been other reported cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis, arising in trombone and saxophone players, say the doctors.

In 2013, bagpiper John Shone spent four weeks in hospital with pneumonia brought on by a fungus which colonised inside his instrument which he had neglected to clean for 18 months.

The doctors warn that any type of wind instrument could be contaminated with yeasts and moulds, making players susceptible to the risk of hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

There's more at the link.

Denis Norden, on the BBC program 'My Music', when asked what was his favorite sound in the world, famously (or notoriously) answered that it was "Bagpipes, receding into the distance."  If this sort of fungal infestation becomes more widespread, that may become a sad reality . . .



Feather Blade said...

"any type of wind instrument could be contaminated"

Depends on if you were taught to clean it before putting it back in the case.

(Yes, flutes are easier to clean than trombones. Not the point.)


deborah harvey said...

i love the pipes.

Judy said...

What Feather Blade said. No excuse for not cleaning your instrument before putting it away.

This was the first thing Hubby taught our daughter about her trumpet and he did random inspection to make sure she was taking care of her horn. She, in turn, taught her fellow trumpet players how to clean their horns because nobody taught them to clean their instruments. Some of her fellow band members didn't even have brushes or valve oil!

My question is why doesn't the average band director or private instructor teach this stuff to their first year students? A lot of health issues would be avoided if this was the first thing everybody was taught about their instrument. Why would you want Legionnaire's Disease? Which is basically what this guy had.

Old NFO said...

Yep, cleaning IS required... Sigh... One brushes at least once or twice a day, why not clean an instrument you breathe into???

LindaG said...

Makes you wonder if people playing bagpipes all these decades have always died from this or if there is someway to clean this instrument to prevent that.
Interesting article. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

We need to stalk and kill the bagpipes in the wild (which have regular contact with molds and fungi out in nature) and only use domesticated bagpipes.

Nothing stirs a hunter's heart as much as the sight of a herd of bagpipes running across the prairie as far as the eye can see.

And who of us has not been inspired and envied a bagpipe's trophy head on the wall of a true hunter, above a couch made from the hide of a wild Nauga.

I was in Africa once and shot a bagpipe in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I'll never know.

Anonymous said...

WOW; death by bagpipe! We need a government panel to look into regulating this terror of the tartans.

cent said...

I've played pipes in my 20-30s. now I play uilleanne pipes (irish elbow pipes) and pretty much quit highland pipes. it was good time.

Moisture is always an issue with highland pipes, and with advent of synthetic material, it actually makes things worse. the Sheep skin bag would pass moisture, but not synthetic like goretex. I've never cleaned my pipes when I was playing heavily and mostly used sheep bag. never had real issue though I quit after I got married. Irish pipes are bit quieter and musical.

Bob said...

Yeah, bellows-driven pipes won't cause this problem. On the other hand, if offers an entrepreneur an opportunity for creating a chain of bagpipe-cleaning stores, or a web presence.

Sam Helm said...

I have enjoyed the pipes since I got my first recording of them, when the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards were first being stood up from the Royal North British Dragoons (Scots Greys) and the Second Guards (Scots Guards) back in the 1960s. It is still good to hear them from time to time. That being said, it is not so hard to believe that people don't clean their instruments. Think about how many people don't clean their coffee cups or firearms. . .

emil said...

GREAT SONG....in the workout mix....once it starts building....dang, i just wanna go invade a country or something....

The Old Sarge said...

Why do bagpipers march around when they play?

To get away from the noise!