Articles Posted in Popcorn Lung

Named after two entities that ought never come into contact with one another in the normal course of events, ‘Popcorn Lung’ – otherwise known as Bronchiolitis obliterans – is a rare and life-threatening form of non-reversible obstructive lung disease in which the bronchioles (the small airway branches inside the lung) are compressed and narrowed by scar tissue and/or permanent inflammation.

The epithet, however eccentric, derives its name from a number of instances in which the inhalation of a particular chemical used to produce the artificial butter flavoring in many foods such as candy, microwave popcorn and wines causes severe, irreparable damage to the lungs of consumers. The compound in question, the airborne form of diacetyl, is otherwise approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a safe flavor ingredient, and, despite is evidence to suggest that inhalation in large amounts is dangerous, there are no warnings from federal regulators about diacetyl.

At the time that evidence of the dangers of diacetyl first came to light, lawsuits such as Chicago personal injury cases arose due to the fact that the food manufacturing companies failed to warn consumers that preparing microwave popcorn in a microwave oven as intended, and smelling the ‘buttery’ aroma, could expose the consumer to an inhalation hazard and a risk of lung injury.

Workers at various popcorn manufacturing facilities have been diagnosed with a degenerative lung injury that, left untreated, can lead to death. What is the cause of this injury? A chemical called diacetyl-it is the primary ingredient in butter flavoring. Young workers who have been repeatedly exposed to this chemical experience serious lung injury that may require a lung transplant. If you have worked in a plant that makes buttered popcorn, you should have a medical exam to determine how your lungs are doing.

The first consumer to become afflicted by Popcorn Workers Lung has returned National Jewish Medical and Research Center for further testing. Since being diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, the man has given up on butter flavored microwave popcorn, and doctors state that the progression of this uncurable disease with no known treatment has at least stabilized. Recent tests put the man’s lung capacity at 65%.

Popcorn Workers Lung is caused by exposure to diacetyl, a flavoring that, until recently, was commonly used to make microwave butter popcorn taste like butter. However, since workers in popcorn factories and this consumer, who have all had repeated exposure to diacetyl, have contracted the disease, many of the larger microwave popcorn producers have discontinued its use.

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The Seante is currently considering legislation that would force OSHA to adopt standards that would regulate workers’ exposure to diacetyl, the commonly-used butter flavoring that has been linked to the onsent of brochiolitis obliterans, or popcorn lung. Currently, there are no federal regulations, and OSHA is only now beginning to investigate the risk of diacetyl exposure to workers at microwave popcorn factories. Recently, ConAgra Foods and Weaver Popcorn discontinued use of the chemical in their microwave popcorn products. However, diacetyl is used in the preparation of many other foods with butter flavoring, and federal regulation is necessary to ensure the safety of other workers in the prepared foods industry.

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In a 260-154 vote, the House has recently passed legislation that would force OSHA to limit workplace exposure to diacetyl, the butter-flavoring compound that has been linked to the development of bronchiolitis obliterans, or Popcorn Lung. Senator Edward Kennedy supports the House effort and hopes that the Senate will pass the bill as soon as possible. Predictably, the White House has opposed this legislation that would impose regulations on large manufacturers, with President Bush threatening to veto.

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Just one week before trial was set to begin, an Iowa man settled his lawsuit that had alleged personal injuries due to exposure to the chemical, diacetyl. The man was a manager at the Snappy Popcorn Co. in Breda, Iowa, and sued the company that made the butter flavoring to which he had been exposed. From this exposure, the man contracted symptoms of a disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans, a condition that has been linked to exposure to the butter flavoring chemical. Symptoms of brochiolitis obliterans, or popcorn lung, include a dry cough and shortness of breath, especially on exertion, that occurs two weeks after exposure to the chemical. The Iowa man stated that his breathing capacity had been cut in half due to his exposure. The terms of the lawsuit have not been disclosed.

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