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September 05, 2007

Popcorn Lovers Risk Getting Popcorn Lung

posted by MR WAVETHEORY at 9/05/2007 04:12:00 PM

The popcorn industry doesn't want you to know a dirty secret: that eating microwave popcorn can give you lung disease. Workers at popcorn flavoring plants have reported getting severe lung diseases from exposure to fumes coming out of the popcorn flavoring. A worker in California says it got so bad, she got popcorn lung and could no longer breathe.

Ortiz, 44, is among a group of California food-flavoring workers recently diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare and life-threatening form of fixed obstructive lung disease. Also known as popcorn workers lung, because it has turned up in workers at microwave-popcorn factories, the disease destroys the lungs. A transplant is the only cure.


The popcorn industry has been covering it up popcorn lung disease for years and the flavoring manufacturers have been doling out hush money for years. That's because popcorn manufacturers try to cut cost by using artificial (read: fake) butter in their products called diacetyl.

Since 2001, academic studies have shown links between the disease and a chemical used in artificial butter flavor called diacetyl. Flavoring manufacturers have paid out more than $100 million as a result of lawsuits by people sick with popcorn workers lung over the past five years. One death from the disease has been confirmed.

The greatest risk happens to people who eat popcorn everyday according to the FDA.

Dr. David Weissman, head of NIOSH's division of respiratory diseases, said the key difference between homes and the factories where popcorn lung has been found is in the level of exposure to diacetyl. For example, he said, sickened quality control workers at a Jasper, Mo., popcorn factory popped hundreds of bags a day in their testing, not just one or two.

The disease is officially called bronchiolities obliterans and according to Wikipedia, this disease is irreversible and severe cases often require a lung transplant. Evaluation of interventions to prevent bronchiolitis obliterans rely on early detection of abnormal spirometry results or unusual decreases in repeated measurements. Symptoms include:

* dry cough
* shortness of breath
* wheezing

The symptoms can start gradually, or severe symptoms can occur suddenly.

I think I'll pass on the popcorn!

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