Attention pipers: His bagpipes killed him – Seriously!

Bagpipe illness

If you’re a firefighter you already have more potential exposure to things that can cause lung disease. If you’re a firefighter who plays bagpipes and aren’t careful, it could be much worse.

My doctor told me years ago that playing a wind instrument regularly is a good thing for your lungs (I’m a frustrated saxophone player), but it can be very harmful and even deadly if you don’t keep the instrument clean. This means getting out the moisture after each session to avoid the production of mold and other harmful things that could be living inside the instrument. If you know a bagpipe player who has lung disease or is regularly getting sick with respiratory problems, make sure someone looks closely at the instrument before it’s too late.

By the time that happened for for one 61-year-old U.K. bagpipe player it was too late. His lung disease was traced by doctors to his dirty bagpipes.

Washington Post Michael E. Miller told the story

Tests conducted on the man’s bagpipes found a slew of fungi and yeast living inside the musical instrument.

Inside the air bag was a mixture of Paecilomyces variottiFusarium oxysporum, Rhodotorula mucilaginosa, and Penicillium species. In a petri dish, they formed a psychedelic swirl of green, orange and red mold.

There was pink yeast on the instrument’s mouthpiece as well as fungi on the neck, chanter, chanter reed, chanter reed protector, bass drome and tenor drome, researchers found. Even the bagpipe carrying case had mold inside.

The moist, airtight bagpipes made an ideal home for the spores.

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