moldybluecheesecurds 2

Friday, September 07, 2007

"Popcorn lung" found in consumer

In May I looked at the weakness of OSHA under President Bush, illustrating its inability to enforce workplace safety with the issue of "popcorn lung." An ailment suffered by employees in the microwave popcorn business, it is contracted by inhaling the vapors of artificial butter flavor diacetyl.

Exposure to synthetic butter in food production and flavoring plants has been linked to hundreds of cases of workers whose lungs have been damaged or destroyed...Heated diacetyl becomes a vapor and, when inhaled over a long period of time, seems to lead the small airways in the lungs to become swollen and scarred.
Well, the major news outlets have finally taken note, probably due to a consumer whose persistent popcorn consumption led him to develop the same ailment that popcorn plant employees have been contracting for years.

The man told Dr. Rose that he had eaten microwave popcorn at least twice a day for more than 10 years.

“When he broke open the bags, after the steam came out, he would often inhale the fragrance because he liked it so much,” Dr. Rose said. “That’s heated diacetyl, which we know from the workers’ studies is the highest risk.”

Dr. Rose measured levels of diacetyl in the man’s home after he made popcorn and found levels of the chemical were similar to those in microwave popcorn plants. She asked the man to stop eating microwave popcorn.

And what do you know. Intervention works.

Six months later, the man has lost 50 pounds and his lung function has not only stopped deteriorating but has actually improved slightly, Dr. Rose said.

“This is not a definitive causal link, but it raises a lot of questions and supports the recommendation that more work needs to be done,” Dr. Rose said.

Maybe not definitive, but OSHA could take note: it's better to be safe than sorry.

The popcorn companies are taking note. Pop Weaver has already nixed diacetyl and ConAgra (Orville Redenbacher and Act II) promises to move soon. Of course, they're only doing this because of "consumer concerns," not because diacetyl is unsafe.


No comments: