Vuvuzelas, those ceremonial trumpets favored by South Africans that, when tooted in unison, approximate the sound of the world's largest locust orgy, are annoying. The World Cup made that crystal clear. But could they also be pandemic-hastening instruments of mass destruction? Possibly!
A new study reveals the vuvuzela to be about as effective as a sneeze in transmitting airborne illnesses, the BBC reports. Each spittle-flecked burst of their noise pollution carries with it the possibility of flu or TB. Put thousands of them together in a crowded arena, and you're looking at a virus's idea of heaven.
On average, 658,000 lung particles, or aerosols, per liter of air were expelled from the instruments. The droplets shot into the air at the rate of four million per second.
In comparison, when the volunteers were asked to shout, they produced only 3,700 particles per liter at a rate of 7,000 per second.
This was just the justification needed to help get them banned from the 2012 London Olympics — which hasn't yet happened, but they're working on it. As a potential alternative, organizers are encouraging visitors to purchase a commemorative replica of Princess Beatrice's stupid wedding hat, and blow into that instead. [BBC News, photo via Shutterstock]