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It’s an ill wind

It’s an ill wind

Today i'm musing on the taboo subject of the bottom burp.

I've decided to pull on my controversial pants this month. So please fasten your seat belts, and let's get to it. I am talking here of the common or garden fart. It may be acceptable for squaddies to snigger about farting in a military barracks after lights out, but almost everywhere else, farting as a subject of conversation remains strictly taboo.

Farts come in greater variety than the leading brand of beans. They can be measured in different ways—wind strength for one. Luckily, thanks to the Beaufort scale, this is easy to assess because the scale encompasses everything from the silent fart — a skill only Zen masters possess — to its powerhouse bigger brother, capable of blasting that porcelain shepherdess off your mantelpiece and flat on her ass. For the detail-hungry, trouser trumpets that physically move objects register six on the Beaufort scale ('Large branches in motion; whistling heard in telegraph wires; umbrellas used with difficulty.')

But the biggest issue with farts isn't power; it's smell. The much-maligned bacteria are the go-to organisms for venting our disgust about colon-originating smells. And we have reasonable cause to point the finger here. Because bacteria create nasty niffs. There, I've said it.

Legend hints at the existence of the odourless fart, but despite a decade of trying, even the Large Hadron Collider hasn't detected one yet.

What can be done?

Air fresheners do their bit to mask traditional guffs such as those emanating from cat litter or a long-forgotten gym bag, but here lurks the danger of overcompensation. This is where the householder hangs so many air fresheners in the littlest room that they come to resemble the wind chimes in a Japanese garden.

Besides, many air fresheners are as eco-friendly as de-forestation. To make your loo smell like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, they'll waft decidedly unheavenly hazardous pollutants about the place. Stuff like formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and — my favourite —xylenes. Does this list bring to your mind summer meadows? Mine neither.

Technology to the rescue?

Then it's a good thing that a major manufacturer is developing a wearable air purifier. Could such a device help eradicate farty smells from your toilet? Prototypes of the device featured a snorkel-like mouthpiece and a backpack — hardly the gear to wear if you want to finish the crossword while you attend to business — but it's said that current models look slick and streamlined.

Don't forget the one percent!

The manufacturers claim that their wearable air purifiers remove 99% of undesirable molecules. That's amazing, but, if like me you suffer from a touch of hypochondria you’ll have sleepless nights about the remaining one percent. Just as you do about a popular household bleach's claim that it 'kills 99% of all household germs.' The fact that one in a hundred germs is impervious to bleach sends shivers up our spines.

In the end, it is the individual toilet goer who must decide how to tackle unmentionable smells. I hope you make the right choice.


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