......................AP News flash..................

Sylvia Branzei

San Francisco, David Kligman, (AP)

Ever wonder why people get smelly feet? What's that gunk that collects in your eyes while you sleep? What is vomit made of?

The answers to those questions and just about anything you probably think is really disgusting can be found in a new children's book, appropriately called ``Grossology'' (Addison-Wesley, $14.99).

Author Sylvia Branzei coined the title, which she describes as ``the science of really gross things.'' Branzei, a science teacher in rural Mendocino County, says the idea for the book came to her last year while she was cutting her toenails.

``I said, `Ooh, what's this icky stuff under my toenails?' '' she says. ``When I thought about it, it hit me that there's a lot of gross things about our body that we want to know about.''

``Grossology'' may be the grossest book ever written, even though its subjects are familiar to anyone who sneezes, gets sick or sleeps, to name just a few bodily functions covered.

Among the book's observations:

-- Smelly feet, Branzei points out, actually are created by wearing shoes
and socks. Sneakers are perfect hosts for bacteria and fungus, which thrives
in warm, moist places.

-- Eye gunk comes from tears that form while we sleep. The liquid evaporates
into crusty masses, which mix with sweat and oil from the caruncle, that
bump of flesh in the lower eyelid.

-- Vomit contains not only undigested food but also hydrochloric acid
diluted by mucus and food. The reason vomit is often green is because of
bile from the small intestine.

Some of the book's facts seem to go beyond gross. For example, ``In some
Eskimo tribes, it is customary for mothers to suck the snot from their
baby's noses and spit it upon the ground.''


Besides being an educational tool, Branzei says she hopes her book debunks certain myths. For instance, an after-dinner burp in some Mideast countries is considered appreciation for a good meal.

There's one section of the book that's clearly the most popular with readers. ``About 90 percent of the people who read it jump right to the farts,'' Branzei says. ``It's one of those things that everybody does but it's difficult to find out about.''

The answers aren't pretty and neither is the book. On the lime green cover is a cartoon of a baby throwing up; attached to the book is one of those fake plastic vomits sold in gag shops.

The book also comes with a plastic magnifying glass so that children, following directions in the book, can analyze their own bodily discharges.

The contents is a potpourri of topics most mothers tell their children never to mention in public. Subjects are organized under three descriptive headings: slimy, mushy, oozy gross things (diarrhea, for example), crusty, scaly gross things (dandruff) and stinky, smelly gross things (burps and belches).

It's a revolting idea for a book, but Branzei says that's the point. Perhaps the best way to approach it is with an open mind and an empty stomach.

``Usually once you find out the answers, you're less grossed out,'' Branzei says. ``Our regular bodily functions are considered disgusting but when you find out about them, they're not as disgusting as you thought they were.''

``Grossology'' has sold more than 4,000 copies since it was published last month, and two major chains already have reordered thousands of copies. Branzei has promoted her book throughout the country, has been interviewed by National Public Radio and soon will appear on ``Good Morning, America.''

``I sit outside under the stars and I think, `I write a book about boogers and farts and I'm sitting on a gold mine,' '' Branzei says. ``I thought it might have a small cult following, but I never thought this was what America wanted.''

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