June 16th, 2010
01:10 PM ET

Vuvuzelas deafen and swell lips

By Madison Park
CNNhealth writer/producer

Cape Town, South Africa  (CNN) -  Lips don't lie.

If you're looking for the culprits who've killed your hearing at the World Cup, just look for swollen lips.

The incessant buzz of vuvuzelas  is inescapable. Vuvuzelas - the plastic horns seen throughout South Africa's packed stadiums -  sound like trumpeting elephants or even extended flatulence.

As World Cup events proceed, people pick up vuvuzelas and let out a long wail for no reason at all, and resume their day while in bars, stores and the streets.

Besides complaints from soccer players about the noise, the controversial plastic trumpets cause some health problems. There are the obvious hearing problems after sitting in a cramped stadium clustered with 60,000 fans, each armed with a high-decibel emitting vuvuzela.  Earplugs are in high-demand at drug stores, most have sold out.

They can also spread germs. A London study found that droplets spray from the end of the vuvuzela and warned fans not to use them if they are sick.

Dr. Ruth McNerney from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine warned that if someone with a chest or throat infection uses the vuvuzela in a crowded place, he could spread their infection to lots of people.

CNN's debate on vuvuzelas:
They are unwanted wailers – ditch the vuvuzelas!

How I learned to love the vuvuzela

Then there is "vuvuzela lips" where frequent users' lips have swelled twice in size - almost as if they've suffered bee stings.

"Sometimes when I blow for a long time, it can be swollen," said Romeo Martin, a Cape Town resident who admits to blowing his red plastic vuvuzela more than 100 times a day.

So why does he do it?

Martin shrugged. "Just for the World Cup," he replied. "When Bafana Bafana (the South African national team) is playing, everyone blows vuvuzelas."

It prompted one Facebook user to comment, "Who needs collagen ... get yourself a vuvuzela," according to The Cape Argus, a local Cape Town paper. It also dispensed advice on preventing vuvuzela lips: baby oil or Vaseline, and a cold drink after all the blowing to reduce the swelling.

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soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. AL

    Why are people complaining all of a sudden? Vuvuzelas have been in every single futbol game since I can remember. Maybe because the U.S. doesn't have the same passion for "soccer" like the rest of the world, that's why we start hearing complaints. A true soccer fan watches the game for the game only, not the sound quality. All these articles, videos, studies, complaints are ridiculous. Let the people be happy for once. Especailly with all the other stuff happening around the world. The flash floods in France, the BP oil spill, Haiti (STILL needs help btw), Bin Laden STILL not found after almost 10yrs. etc

    Leave the vuvuzelas ALONE!

    June 16, 2010 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Augustus

      Right, because only America dislikes the vuvuzelas? Because people in Europe, the birth continent of the game, and South America, and Islamic countries aren't complaining? Give me a break and check your facts.

      Put quotations around "soccer" all you like (I prefer calling it football too), but the United States isn't the only one who calls it soccer. Soccer City, South Africa anyone? Australia and New Zealand, who also call it soccer, don't count?

      A true fan watches it for the game only? What are chants, then? (ex: Ole Ole) I wonder if the coaches and players trying to hear each other over the (potentially literally) deafening sound would agree with you. No, I don't – they wouldn't.

      Let the people be happy for once? Ridiculous. Because only with the vuvuzelas can the viewers be happy? Oh, but true fans watch it for the game only, right?

      July 10, 2010 at 22:46 | Report abuse |
  2. Huh?

    US? What does this have to do with the US? Because it is CNN? You are a moron. CNN doesn't even like the US. Every country in the world is complaining about the noise. US haters are so uneducated it is incredible. Go back to Waziristan and find Bin Laden yourself loser. 3% of our population cares about Bin Laden. The educated Americans know our policies caused 911, not a bunch of ragheads on a mission.

    June 16, 2010 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. RT

    The U.S. Was the LAST team to complain officially about the noise. So AL, your point is entirely moot. It was the European teams that first officially complained. So get your facts and stop posting. Vuvuzelas are hardly a 'cultural' item in Africa. They are BARELY 10 years old in the country (Might I add they were originally an imported CHILDS TOY) That for some reason they 'embraced'.

    June 16, 2010 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply

    Al, you couldn't have said it better. I agree with you 100%. I have never thought about the noise. To me it's just background noise. I'd rather hear that than stupid, drunk people yelling. This could only happen here, at home. Go Team USA. Let's at least make it to the next round.

    June 16, 2010 at 20:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. zzzbaluga

    That Vuvuzelas might have been widely in use in every soccer game ever since the game was invented does not remove those health issues mentioned in this article. And so, the fact that tobacco has been widely consumed for hundreds of years does not render the adverse effects on our health any less urgent. To a cigarette smoker, smoking cigarette is his happy hour, and the world should simply ignore the vicious effects of tar and nicotine and let the poor addict happily smoke his health away!

    June 16, 2010 at 20:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mark

    It sounds like a swarm of flies or stock cars zipping past the camera on race day... but endless. I could see it being annoying, but hey, so are a lot of things outside one's cultural norm... it's called tolerance. We need to practice more of it.

    June 16, 2010 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. mike

    It's funny, somehow I like the sound of the vuvuzuela and loathe futbol. Don't see the point in the sport. But the vuvuzuela has some sort of epic sound to it.

    June 16, 2010 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. JeffB

    What are you talking about? They're only used in South Africa! When is the last time you heard vuvuzelas in a futbol game ANYWHERE outside of Africa??

    June 16, 2010 at 21:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Larry

    This is all psychotic behaviour displayed by rabid soccer fans. But should we expect anything less? This is the World Cup after all.

    June 16, 2010 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. x

    South Africa needs to take away those noise makers ASAP.

    June 16, 2010 at 22:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Paul

    "Besides complaints from soccer players about the noise ..."

    The World Cup is about the teams, right? Why is FIFA allowing the fans to negatively impact the games?

    The focus of the WC is not on the fans ...

    June 16, 2010 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Gol

    What I miss is the melodious chorus of fan songs that one hears while watching futbol. If vuvuzelas are the new instrument of song, at least give them the ability to sound different notes. The monotone sound they produce now is too sterile.

    June 16, 2010 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Elizabeth

    The same reason that many African countries are so behind the rest of the world in health (superstitious/religious belief regarding female circumcision/cures for AIDS/etc.) is the reason that they refuse to give up the vuvuzelas...despite the enormous threat of permanent hearing damage and transmission of infectious diseases, they continue to insist upon it as a part of their culture. Some cultural traditions and habits die away for a reason...yes, they're annoying, but they're also loud and a disgusting way to share diseases. Other cultures have plenty of traditions that they have essentially given up for reasons of safety, health/hygiene.

    June 16, 2010 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. anon

    if it bothers the soccer PLAYERS, it should be stopped. thats the bottom line.

    June 16, 2010 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Nz

    We are only 5 days into the WC and scientists have already conducted a study? The last I heard the vvzl came into the limelight just when the WC was about to start. Unless, of course, the scientists already had ample time to study the instrument, in which case they fail in their duty of seeking knowledge for the good of us all. They should have cautioned South Africans and FIFA long before kickoff. If they did not, they should forever hold their peace and let fans ran wild and have fun. Swollen lips and temporary hearing problems? These too shall pass, but the vvzl will remain the sound of South African football, just as "wave your flag" will remain the soundtrack of the 2010 WC.

    June 16, 2010 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RosaParks

    Seriously? Bin Laden is long dead my friend. Hahahaha. Wow!

    And these vuvuzelas are the one reason I refuse to watch futbol. It's a great game but the noise is incessant. Oh, us poor Americans. We value silence. 😉

    June 16, 2010 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Rich Gerhold

    Passion and what not aside, if the Americans passion was to fire guns into the air all game long, do you honestly think the rest of the world would be okay with it?

    And I find it hard to believe that a plastic horn is a "national" icon. It wasn't even invented on that side of the planet, but rather invented in Mexico.

    What a joke.

    June 16, 2010 at 23:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Soccer Fan

    True soccer fans enjoy the atmosphere- not just watching the game: and the STUPID horns kill the atmosphere. You have obviously never been to a real soccer game- where the "Rowdies" chat and sing songs and make comments. The stadium programs now print the words to the most popular cheers for fans to sing along. How is it fun to be deafened with a mindless hum that has no purpose? If you have to blow the stupid things, how about when a goal is scored? Do you have to drone on and on thru the entire game? And the noise is truely a health issue. People really do not understand the long term damage that is done to their hearing from tthese horns. Personally, I hope all stadiums will put a ban on the horns!

    June 16, 2010 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. David

    AL: No. They're a frigging public nuisance.

    June 16, 2010 at 23:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. JKT

    I don't think "AL" gets it. Vuvuzelas are only in South Africa. Cowbells are used through most of Europe. OK, you can go use your horns, but we can also mute our TV's. The point of the article, though, is that you might NOT want to use your horns. They are bad for your ears and lips, and possibly your lungs if other blowers are sick. The writer is trying to HELP you, not hurt you.

    June 16, 2010 at 23:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Travis

    The vuvuzela's likely swell the lips because of the principal to play them. To produce a pitch, you have to buzz, like on a trumpet. Most people aren't used to buzzing that much, and are playing more in 90 minutes of a match than a professional trumpet player will in a symphony orchestra concert. They're likely also overblowing to produce as much sound as possible.

    If you're talking about 50k+ vuvuzelas in a stadium, that's not just 127 decibels, it's 35 times as much sound produced in an area that's not really ideal for the acoustics of it.

    On a personal level, I'm completely fine with the South Africans playing them in their stadiums – it's how they do soccer (Football, futbol, however you want to call it) there. But I wouldn't want one at my local pitch when I watch a game.

    June 16, 2010 at 23:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Don Juan

    I believe that every country is complaining about this – with the exclusion of the African countries. Everyone complains about things they are not accustomed to. Life goes on..............

    June 17, 2010 at 00:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Kurt

    People who say that it is only americans complaining are ignorant. The French team along with other teams have complained just as much, but in many blogs i have read.....its only the americans who don't want it. A true soccer fan not only watches the game, but also watches the crowd reactions to good shots, good plays, a great goal keeper save or anything else that might stir an audience. All you here is bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, its annoying as hell. Why do you think places like America and France have banned smoking in restaurants and other public places.....because it effects other people.

    June 17, 2010 at 00:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. SilentBoy741

    "When Bafana Bafana is playing, everyone blows vuvuzelas."

    That's the best quote of the article. I sense the birth of a new piece of American slang, Such as: "Man, that new Steven Seagal movie really blows vuvuzelas!"

    June 17, 2010 at 00:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Ealdwulf

    They've been in some games yes, but in England and other European leagues you don't hear them in the absolute overwhelming numbers that you do in the World Cup this year. I don't think the complaints are from *just* Americans. I believe many many football fans find this absolutely annoying. It takes away from the game in my opinion. I'd rather hear the fans singing the nation anthem, or some club song favorite, or even playing drums. I love when I go to a Mexican club game here in the states and you have people playing trumpets and mariachi music it just adds to the pride of that country and the flavor of the match. With the vuvuzelas you cannot hear any of that! Just those damned horns! I don't think it enriches the south african experience, in fact I think it takes away from it.

    June 17, 2010 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Max Maxington


    Most futbol fans like hearing the chanting and singing, and we have not heard any because of the ear raking noise of those cheap horns. It's rather annoying when you have to force yourself to watch a futbol game, something you've loved watching since childhood due to people playing those annoying horns. Glad Uruguay beat the hosts on Wednesday though, it quieted the stands for once.

    June 17, 2010 at 00:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. CL

    Yet curiously, AL, you don't find them in England, either. And with just a wee bit of digging you would learn that not all the players who've complained are American. I understand that the urge to find fault with Americans regardless of the subject is often irresistible, but I think that if you're honest with yourself you'll have to admit that this particular indictment of Americans, satisfying though it must have been to publish, was without merit.

    Lots of us Americans like "soccer" (I'm so glad the English invented that nickname for the sport, aren't you?). We also enjoy several other fun sports. True, soccer isn't the most popular sport in the US, but then it's also not the most popular sport in Japan (baseball, an American export), The Philippines (basketball), India (cricket), Canada (hockey, natch), or Austria (skiing), and a lot of other countries–in fact, while soccer is the most popular sport globally, it's the most popular sport in only around 1 out of 3 countries.

    I guess those must be the other complainers.

    June 17, 2010 at 00:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Dan

    Al, i'm sure one or two fans have brought these nuisances to European matches in the past, but never this many, and never to a World Cup. I, for one, am bitterly disappointed that I cannot hear fans chanting, singing, players screaming at each other...all because these ridiculous horns are being blown by people who probably have very little knowledge of soccer. I mean, if you're blowing a horn into the air for ninety minutes, are you really watching the action on the field? If they want to blow it when South Africa are playing, fine. But when I see two European teams playing, I want to witness THEIR soccer tradition. I just know when Portugal plays Brazil next Friday, all i'm going to hear is the faint voice of the commentator and the swarm of the worst football innovation EVER taking over my eardrums. And that may very well be enough to put this World Cup in the books as the worst ever. The play ain't helping much, either.

    June 17, 2010 at 00:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. bd

    True, let people enjoy them selves. We shldnt dwell on minor issues when there are bigger issues that are still unresolved. I dont see the swelling of lips as a problem. Its their life after all.


    June 17, 2010 at 00:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Fiona

    Bee-stung lips? Sounds like a perfect alternative to injectable lip fillers and temporary lip plumpers. There might be a whole new market for these things.

    June 17, 2010 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Johan

    Give me a break. I've been to Real Madrid and AC Milan games in both countries... Vuvuzelas are the most annoying thing known to man, and no... they don't use them in Spain or Italy either.

    June 17, 2010 at 00:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. DNVoroshilov

    Of course they're going to swell. If you've ever played a trumpet or a trombone for the first time or for long periods of time, your lips can get swollen and very irritated. I wouldn't call it a health problem.

    June 17, 2010 at 00:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Marty

    Are you trying to say just because there is an oil spill, people have the right to annoy everyone else with their juvenile noise makers?

    June 17, 2010 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Mark

    Like Al said, these things have been around for years. Usually touted as noisy but charming little devices but because the cup is being held in Africa suddenly they are a detriment to the health and well being of western civilization as we know it.

    June 17, 2010 at 01:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. cristian

    I disagree ...the vuvuzelas are annoying beyond any measure ...10 or 20 is ok ...but thousands in a stadium is ridiculous.

    ...players don't like it because they can not hear they own thoughts... coaches don't like it cause they can not get their instructions across...

    And I don't like it cause I can barely listen the commentators and always with that annoying buzz behind them ...

    The only thing that would love the vuvuzelas is the a1h1 virus in new surge and then I would like to hear vuvuzelas defenders right there...

    I love Futbol !!!....I hate this world cup vuvuzelas... GO CHILE !

    June 17, 2010 at 01:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Ben

    @AL I certainly do not remember incessant buzzing like a swarm of bees drowning out the traditional fanfare of the crowd's chants and singing. This is definitely unique to this world cup. And stop with the weak and unoriginal attempt to blame US for the complaints. I've got friends all over the world who dislike the vuvuzelas in the world cup.

    June 17, 2010 at 01:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Randall

    why is there always someone thrusting the blame on america? last i checked they are just one team and just about every team is complaining! but somehow it's all ONE country's fault naturally. players hate the things, fans world wide hate the things, sponsors and sportscasters hate the things. look if you want to call tooting a piece of plastic a cultural thing whatever but when you want to world to bring their money and attention to your country try not to anger your guests who are helping your economy. somehow i really don't think south africa will be seeing the world cup again any time soon if this is their attitude. it was hard fought to get it there in the first place but will be near impossible now. i'd be afraid the thousands of vuvuzelas would be spattering so much spit it would be like being at a gallager show getting hit by watermelon bits... just grosser lol

    June 17, 2010 at 01:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. saj maggie

    if u dont want to hear the vuvuzela dont watch the W/C..did anyone ever complaint about the european drums and whistle..WTF is wrong with people..if a player doesnt like it he should simply not play..till then every vuvuzella hater should shut up..

    June 17, 2010 at 02:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Lex


    The problem I have with the Vuvuzelas is that they drown out all of the other sounds of the game. It would be nice to hear people cheer once and a while. All I can hear is that annoying B-flat.

    Our team scores, blow the horn.
    Their team scores, blow the horn.
    Foul, blow the horn.
    Ball is passed, blow the horn.
    Somebody falls, blow the horn.
    Blah blah blah..

    Vuvuzelas should be banned for many reasons.

    June 17, 2010 at 02:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. JJ

    You cannot blame it on the U.S. The players themselves say they do not like it and would love for the noise to stop. Sounds like it is not a new complaint to me. Like "soccer" or not, I don't think you can accuse the players of having no passion for the sport.

    June 17, 2010 at 02:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. JJ

    I'm an American with friends from all corners of the planet and while we don't agree on who's going to win the cup, we all do agree on one thing: The vuvuzelas are annoying. It's a 20 year-old "tradition" at soccer matches in South Africa. 20 years is all it takes for someone to claim a tradition and demand the world respect it? Someone notify the Vatican: Child molestation is a tradition!

    June 17, 2010 at 02:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Paul

    For the games including the Republic of South Africa, I can see letting them use the horns. But for all other games, they should be banned. Watching the game with the sound is impossible, it is such an irritating noise, you can't hear the commentary, the kick of the ball, or the referee's whistle. The ratings will decline and FIFA will be forced to ban the horns or lose money, it's all about the cash.

    June 17, 2010 at 03:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Mike

    Wow, did you not just read this article? What's the point of blowing these stupid horns all game? Name ONE good thing about them! Even the idiot native they interviewed wasn't sure as to why he blows the horn all day. They probably only implemented these vuvuzelas because of all the racist chants throughout the stadiums so they stuck these annoying noise-makers in their ignorant mouths instead. Which is virtually the only good thing I can see about these pointless instruments. And the fact you say "a true soccer fan watches the game for the game, not the sound quality", is rather dumb. They're spraying germs everywhere, people are buying ear plugs so they don't lose their hearing and it takes away from the game. Hearing the roar of the crowd is one of the best part of large spectator sports...not hearing the constant annoying flatulence sound.

    June 17, 2010 at 03:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Martin

    Al, you must not know a lot about soccer. First, it is hardly people from the US that are complaining. People around the world, including many players, are complaining. Heck, the Swiss team trained with the sound just so they could get used to it because it is so disruptive. Try reading English and Spanish (as in blogs from those countries) to get opinions from outside of the US. They are unanimous in their disdain for them. Try not to be so insular in your thinking and always assume it to be a US problem.

    Second, where did you grow up? S Africa by chance? Maybe that's why they sound so familiar. Go to any game in Europe and you'll never hear them.

    Third, people were complaining about them during the Confederations Cup last year and ever since. Where have you been? Perhaps you are the only one paying attention all of the sudden.

    Finally, I can't help but think that your comment " A true soccer fan watches the game for the game only, not the sound quality" is ridiculous. True, I watch for the game, but sound also helps. Case in point: when the Champions League was played on Fox, I was very distraught when I thought that the Americans hosting the pregame were going to commentate. Why? Because from the pregame, I could tell that they lacked knowledge and that it would be painful to sit through the broadcast listening to them.

    June 17, 2010 at 03:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Dammika K

    Vuvuzelas have nothing to do with futbol (soccer) or the passion for the game. I believe those that blow incessantly into these primitive horns are ridiculous, self centered and immature fools attempting to fit in and get attention. If it is true that they pose some risk not only to the individual who is using the vuvuzelas, but also the people around them, then ban these immediately. If any one stops watching the games in person due to the aforementioned ban, then they were never true fans to bigin with.

    June 17, 2010 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Mary

    To AL: Sorry to tell you, but vuvuzelas have not been present at every game. Vuvuzelas are purely an African instrument, and have only recently been a plastic item. Don't get me wrong, there have always been a horn of some type, but they were never able to produce the sound level that the vuvuzelas produce. In past World cups, one could always hear drums, the chanting of the crowds, whistles, etc. For the first time, players are complaining that they can't hear each other. I am a true soccer fan, have been for over 35 years, and while I can watch the games just fine, I really miss the environment of the crowd, the excitement that they could create. Any true football lover should miss what each countries fans could bring to the experience of the game. I know my husband (who is a Brit), I, and all our friends from S, America, Europe and Asia, miss this aspect of the World Cup, and it made us happy.

    June 17, 2010 at 04:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Michael

    Keep your hands at your sides, your mouth shut, and (more importantly) let someone else do the thinking for you. Specifically big media. They don't want you to celebrate, have fun or make any noise of any kind. It upsets thier order of things and they don't like it! Making the world more perfect through mind control and fear. Submit or be defeated!

    June 17, 2010 at 04:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Jamo

    Im a football fanatic and I love the sound of the vuvuzelas. They are part of the football culture not just South African culture. I really dont care for the commentators, I dont need to hear them, I need to hear the true atmosphere of the stadium! Viva vuvuzela!

    June 17, 2010 at 04:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Fra

    I'm sorry but I'm Italian and I think people who get loud during games are jerks. I'm not there to listen to some guy make noise, I'm there to watch the stupid game. Seems like common courtesy is completely thrown out the window and replaced with some excuse for 'team spirit'. Just because it's the World Cup, it doesn't mean that people can act immature. That's why I would never go see a game live. There is no mute button. When I was in Japan, everyone had a specific time for chanting, usually in an orderly fashion when the players weren't going to be disturbed or distracted. They still had noise sticks, and balloons etc... but they had the courtesy of using them only at specific times and not to annoy the other team. Remember, it's the players that make the game, not the fans, contrary to popular belief. Pretty soon fans will have to watch the players behind a sound bubble or something just so they can play a fair game. Sometimes some people's level of selfishness just astonishes me. I had never heard one of these plastic toys before but as soon as I saw a short clip on Youtube I muted it promptly. There are very few annoying things people do for the sake of 'culture' and many of them wouldn't even be considered to be acceptable in this day and age. Go ahead and play those ridiculous children's toys and I'll keep my hearing. You probably won't hear me when I warn you a semi is coming down the street full speed while you cross the street.

    June 17, 2010 at 05:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Scott

    Al, your post misses the mark on so many fronts. For one, I'm in London, and all the Brits and other Europeans complain about the vuvuzelas, and they are as passionate for "soccer" as anybody. If the players are complaining about the noise, then it isn't about sound quality as it is clearly affecting play, and not in a "natural" way like weather. Finally, I'm all for letting people be happy, but why are you placing the happiness of those who are blowing the horns above those who have valid complaints about the noise and the detrimental impact on hearing (it's over 130db!!!). The fact that stores are running out of ear plugs gives some indication of how those in the immediate vicinity feel about them.

    They should be banned just like air horns, laser pointers, and other manmade objects that can cause injury to players and fans.

    June 17, 2010 at 05:14 | Report abuse | Reply
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