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A stinky job, but someones got to put their foot down: President Bingu wa Mutharika wants to outlaw "passing wind."

At first I thought the headlines were a hoax.  “Law that put the wind up for you… Malawi bans flatulence,” blared the Daily Express.  “Better in than out: African country set to make breaking wind a crime,” was the headline of the Daily Mail.

Oh, how the English like their toilet jokes, almost as much as their hoaxes. I also read the various comments, like “Then I guess setting one on fire would be a capital crime?” and “I think I’m in for life!” Finally, I  set out to, um, get to the bottom of it.

Yes, the man behind this clamp down, so to speak, is Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika.  It’s called Local Courts Bill 2010 and he’s introduced it to his Parliament.

What I’m most curious about is not if one can pass such a … law, but how does one enforce it?  Can you make a citizen’s arrest?  If your great Auntie Martha starts whistling Dixie and rolls down the window in the car, can you drive her right to the local precinct?

If you find yourself around so-called “foul odors” in a locker room, do you just round up the usual suspects?

Is passing wind in one’s home, if you’re not in the bathroom, grounds for divorce?  After all, who’d want to be married to a serial offender?

Will there be jail time or just fines, rehab or community service?

Will certain foods require black box warning labels, that excessive use might result in commission of a crime?

Is this a good time to buy stock in Malawi Beano, or is it a better time to import or manufacture it yourself?

If the law is passed, will there be medical exemptions? After all, excessive flatulence may be a symptom of a serious health problem such as:

"Shreddies," made in the UK for men, women and children, claim to prevent odor from flatulence.

Can you get a reduced sentence if you prove you’ve given your best efforts to prevent odors caused by passing gas? (See “Shreddies” underwear advertisement.)

You see, what is not talked about but widely accepted in American medicine: everyone passes wind, about ten to 14 times a day, depending on the research expert you consult.

One of the most famous of the flatulence docs is  Michael D. Levitt, a gastroenterologist and associate chief of staff at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center.  He’s authored or co-authored over 275 articles on the subject in medical journals. If you call him “Dr. Fart,” he’s not likely to be offended.

As the foremost authority, he says things like,  “Farts have been good to me. I’ve done very well, thank you.”  Not only is he a successful researcher, he claims he’s a hit at cocktail parties.

Anyway, he’s on the conservative side: his research shows, on average, the normal number of “flatulatic occurrences” a day is 10, with lots more that don’t leave the body so, technically, he doesn’t count them.

Over 22? See a doctor, he says. The most ever logged for a single patient?  He’s had two men who averaged upward of 140 a day.  Diagnosis: lactose intolerance.  “These two were the biggest farters of my career,” he told a reporter. “One of them complained that his sex life had been ruined by his chronic farting,” Levitt added.

Isn’t that punishment enough, Mr. Malawi President?

I say Dr. Levitt teleconference with Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika and his Malawi Parliament and show them nature must take its course.  They need to know the anatomy flatulence: that “an average male fart is made up of about 110 milliliters of gas (almost half a cup), with 80 milliliters for a woman’s (a third of a cup). That adds up to a lot of gas — 38 ounces during a single day for men, 27 ounces for women. Although some women claim they never fart, Levitt says that’s not true. They just fart less because they are smaller.”

No, this isn’t an early April Fool’s Day. Read the rest of this entry »