'Bagpipe Lung' in British Medical Journal

The British Medical Journal published Bagpipe lung; a new type of interstitial lung disease? in Thorax.

Ian Clabburn, chairman of The Bagpipe Society responds:

There is a medical journal article circulating about a lung ailment called bagpipe lung, which is postulated as being related to sensitivity to microbes within the bag. It appears to rest on only one known patient. To date we have received two press enquiries and here is our chairman’s response. If anyone has more to add, please add a comment asap.

“This type of story - infections from bagpipe bags - comes up from time to time, but this is the first report I have come across that identifies potential culprits.

Here are my thoughts on the situation, although it must be emphasised that The Bagpipe Society does not claim great expertise in this area:

There are huge numbers of highland pipers in the world, many in organisations such as the military, which may have noticed a correlated trend in lung disease over the last 150 years. I am not aware of any such being recorded.

The blowpipe is fitted with a non return valve, which although not perfect, should minimise back infection.

Bagpipe bags are usually leather and therefore porous. This lets moisture out, so the bag will dry unless it is stored badly. Some modern bags are made of goretex and contain a moisture trap which is removed and emptied/dried after use, which helps further.

Most modern bagpipes are also treated with a seasoning which makes the bag airtight but also often contains an antifungal agent.

I would expect the same basic hygiene rules to be applied to all wind instruments and as such, bagpipes are probably no different in infection risk.

That being said, many of our members prefer bellows blown pipes - more hygienic, lower maintenance and possibly less physically demanding! “

You can also listen to Ian Clabburn’s interview on Talk Radio.

We were also quoted in an article in the Telegraph.

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