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December 30, 2008, Last Updated May 12, 2014
By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist










Ready to munch a hot bowl of buttery popcorn as you curl
up in a chair for that rented movie? You might want to think
again.


For the first time, a rare lung disease linked to workers in
popcorn factories has been contracted by a man whose sole
link to popcorn is that he eats it at home.
   

Since 2001, numerous academic studies have reported a
link between a rare and deadly lung disease and diacetyl, an
ingredient used to add a buttery  flavor to microwavable
popcorn.

The disease, "bronchiolitis obliterans" is a rare and
life-threatening form of fixed obstructive lung disease,  
nicknamed "popcorn lung disease."
 It has been contracted
by workers in factories producing microwaveable
butter-flavored popcorn, according to lawsuits filed in
California. Manufacturers have had to pay out more than
$100 million to settle the suits.

Up until now, the disease has been considered solely an
occupational hazard to workers in popcorn factories. But
that all changed. On July 18, 2007, a prominent doctor at
the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver,
Colorado published a letter sent to the Food and Drug
Administration and other agencies. The doctor reported
that a man had developed the rare disease and the only
plausible link was his exposure to the bags of popcorn he
microwaved daily in his home.

Click here for the Doctor's letter.

Should you be concerned? Plenty of people think so.

One manufacturer has announced it is no longer using
diacetyl in its factories.

Stay tuned.

Update:

In 2013, the US Centers for Disease Control investigated
the link between diacetyl and deaths at a California popcorn
production plant.

The study, led by Dr. Cara Haldin,  examined the health
records of 511 workers. Of these workers, 15 had died. The
CDC observed that, based on population studies, it would
have expected 17.39 deaths in a population of 515.  
However, the CDC did note that there were high than
normal deaths from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease) among those workers who were employed at the
plant before it reduced its use of diacetyl.

The CDC concluded that it is advisable for plants to continue
to reduce exposure of their workers to diacetyl.


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