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BBC Scotland's James Cook reports
"The latest materials could be the saviour of today's piper"
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Monday, 28 August, 2000, 19:31 GMT 20:31 UK
Bagpipe bugs 'can bite'
Piping band
The study was carried out in America
An American lung disease expert has sounded a warning over bagpipes.

Robert Sataloff says people who take up the instrument are more prone to infections and to developing large stomachs.

The doctor, who works at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, believes the bag acts as a perfect breeding ground for spores that can be breathed in by pipers.

His study shows that the problem comes from the glycerine and honey products used to cure the instrument's skin.

I had a check-up at the doctors recently and he said I had the lungs of a man who was 6ft 6ins - and I am only 5ft 10ins

Roddy Macleod, bagpiper
They make for a better sound, but they also act as culture mediums for bacteria and fungi.

Dr Sataloff says people who breath in air from bagpipes often infect themselves and develop pneumonias.

He also believes players can experience other "strange problems".

The academic explained: "They are more likely to have an hour-glass belly in which they develop funny-shaped distended stomachs filled with the air from playing the instrument.

"Bagpipe players can make awful funny noises - you tend to know when you are standing next to someone who plays.

Early signs

"If bagpipers start to experience changes in their ability to breathe and play, or if they develop voice fatigue, these may be early signs that they have lung problems because of the bags."

But Roddy Macleod, director of piping at the Piping Centre in Glasgow, said he had not experienced any problems during the 25 years he has been playing.

Pipers are said to be more prone to lung infections
"I obviously have a large circle of friends who play and I haven't noticed these problems being too prominent.

"I think perhaps in days gone by the curing with honey and glycerine was used.

"But there are different kinds of products on the market now and there are many pipers who don't use skin bags and use man-made products instead," said Mr Macleod.

As far as he was aware, most of his piper friends were in good health and he said the past-time was known to be good for the cardiovascular system.

"I had a check-up at the doctors recently and he said I had the lungs of a man who was 6ft 6ins - and I am only 5ft 10ins," he added.

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