A 2003 study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on chemical emissions has linked potential health risks from inhaling artificial butter flavors containing diacetyl in microwave popcorn to fatal lung disease. In previous studies the compound diacetyl had been linked with the lung disease in laboratory animals.
Microwave popcorn factory workers have been diagnosed with the fatal lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans. The rare lung disease, which has been recently referred to as "popcorn worker's lung", consists of a serious and irreversible inflammation of the airways that lead to the lungs.
Currently there is no estimate of how many workers may be affected. Thousands have been exposed to diacetyl in the artificial butter flavors and at least one employee has died. The FDA has not tested for diacetyl because they only test for the ingestion safety of artificial flavorings not the inhalation safety.
Scientists Letter to OSHA on Diacetyl
Hold the Microwave Popcorn
Popcorn Lung Disease in the NewsAug-29-07: Weaver Popcorn Co. first company to make microwave popcorn that eliminates a controversial flavoring ingredient. The company says its Pop Weaver popcorn with the new flavor formulation will be sold in stores in September 2007. Diacetyl is used in butter flavorings and is considered to be safe on consumer food products, but workers making products at some companies have suffered illnesses when inhaling large amounts of the ingredient. [INSIDE INDIANA: POPCORN]
Aug-08-06: Faux butter allagedly causes lung disease in factory workers. [SACBEE]
Aug-03-06: Congressmen blast federal agency for failing to protect workers in food-flavoring factories from popcorn lung disease. [SACBEE]
Jul-30-06: Popcorn lung victims may number in the thousands as the search for victims has just begun. [SACBEE]
Jul-28-06: The EPA is accused of withholding data from a 2003 study which alludes to health risks to workers in popcorn factories. [10>KANSAS CITY ]
Jul-27-06: Health experts are seeking regulations for artificial butter in microwave popcorn after studies link a chemical in the vapors to fatal lung disease. [CONTRA COSTA TIMES]
Jul-26-06: Unions demand safety measure for workers exposed to "popcorn lung". [MERCURY NEWS]
May-02-06: Worker dies on lung damage after being exposed to diacetyl, a chemical used in butter flavoring for microwave popcorn. [