NEW YORK – Consider it the anti-whoopee cushion.
It's the GasBGon flatulence filter, and it's helping provide relief for thousands of gas passers who have cleared rooms or blamed the dog for far too long.
"People tell us, 'Thank you for giving my life back. Now I can go out in public again,'" Sharron Huza, the cushion's creator, said in an interview. "They'll bring it with them to the movie theatre, to work, in the car or on the airplane."
Huza said more than 1,000 cushions have been sold in just over a year on the market. The company has been approached by people interested in taking GasBGon products into Belgium, Britain, Asia and Canada, according to James Huza, the company president.
"Second-hand flatulence knows no borders," he said.
The Huzas, a husband-and-wife team, say the cushion uses charcoal liner technology to filter out both malodorous smells and head-turning noises. The fabric is washable, and a removable foam filter muffles sounds while the activated carbon absorbs odors.
"I'm sure everyone knows someone that could use one of these," said Eric Curran, of Staten Island, N.Y., who doesn't own a GasBGon but finds the idea both practical and humorous. "We have a whole culture of gas ... kids joke about it. You teach them it's funny and then it's funny for the rest of their lives."
But the Huzas, who said they came upon the idea after a dinner of beans and wieners, didn't invent the product just for laughs.
"There are a lot of people with serious medical issues like diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome," said Sharron Huza. "People are really suffering, and this number is increasing as years go on due to diet and lack of exercise."
While flatulence isn't always a laughing matter, the Huzas liken themselves to Shakespeare. "Where there's a serious side, there's also a comedic side," Mr. Huza said.
Richard Cowles, a maintenance engineer in South Carolina, said he bought his GasBGon as a joke, but became a believer and now keeps one at his office and at home. Cowles said his co-workers laughed when they first heard about the cushion, but "now about five guys here have their own."
Several members of Cowles' extended family have placed orders. Even his 5-year-old son has one, and has written a testimonial about the cushion on the company's Web site.
"I travel in the car with Mom and Dad a lot. I have my own [cushion] with the checkered flag," the son wrote.
Cushions can take about 450 toots before they need a filter change, and come in several fashion patterns with names like "The Musical Solo" and "Silent But Deadly."
While some companies hope their success isn't all just hot air, the Huzas are building on it, and have more products in the works. They're currently testing an idea for gas-filtering underpants.
"It's worn between undergarments and the outer layer of clothing," James said. "We're designing this as a result of some of the requests we've had … for those who 'walk and talk' at the same time.'"
While the Huzas say laughter is the best medicine, they also haven't lost their original focus.
"Our goal is to help people with medical issues," said Sharron. "I have a nursing background and got to see patients firsthand, and what they go through."
But it's not just for those with medical conditions — it goes a long way to help their loved ones too.
"Thank you for sending me the cushion," Rodolfo L., from Costa Rica, wrote on www.gasbgon.com. "My wife is very happy."