Popcorn is among the world’s most popular snack foods. Its enticing aroma fills the air at ballparks, movie theatre, homes, and in offices around the world. But, behind its universal appeal, there is a danger to the people who make this delicious product––Diacetyl.
Diacetyl is a compound that creates butter, cheese, caramel, and other artificial flavors in many food products, such as microwave popcorn. Diacetyl is found in real butter as well, but is heavily concentrated when added as additional flavoring.
The Trouble With Diacetyl
Unfortunately, some individuals who work in environments where they are frequently exposed to Diacetyl are at risk of developing a serious lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans, also referred to as popcorn lung.
This condition earned its name as it was first discovered amongst individuals who work in popcorn factories. It can severely constrict the airflow through your lungs and those afflicted often require lifelong medical care and monitoring.
Those at risk of developing this irreversible lung disease work in a variety of different industries, including:
Artificial flavoring manufacturers
Environments where coffee is ground
And other places where food is processed
Popcorn lung has proven difficult to diagnose any many well-meaning physicians often misdiagnosed the disease as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, or pneumonia.
Symptoms of popcorn lung include:
Shortness of breath
In addition, victims of the disease have severely diminished lung capacity and may experience symptoms as much as 5 years after their last exposure to Diacetyl.
What The Food Processing Industry Knew About Diacetyl
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other organizations have been reviewing the use of Diacetyl and Diacetyl substitutes since 2002. There are indications that the food processing industry was aware of the dangers of Diacetyl for decades, but chose to cover it up rather than risk profits.
Even as food processing workers started dying from exposure to Diacetyl, the industry swore that the compound was safe for consumers. Some advertisers even went so far as to produce ads encouraging consumers to inhale deeply to enjoy the buttery aroma of some food products that contained Diacetyl.
The regulation of health hazards from food additive such as Diacetyl is extremely poor. No safe level of Diacetyl has been determined and available data suggest that some food processing workers regularly exceed recommended exposure limits.
If you work in a food service processing plant or any other facility that uses a large quantity of Diacetyl or products that contain Diacetyl, you may be at risk of developing popcorn lung. Make sure that you wear appropriate breathing guards so that you don’t inhale the compound.
If you believe that you have developed popcorn lung, or any other lung disease as a result of inhaling Diacetyl at work, you may be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim for benefits to cover your medical bills (present and future), lost wages and income, and any resulting disability you suffer.
In addition, you may be eligible to file a third-party claim against anyone else responsible for your exposure to Diacetyl, including the manufacturers Diacetyl and/or products containing the compound.
For more information, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to discuss filing a claim for benefits and a third-party claim, under which you may be able to recover compensation above and beyond that which is available to you under a workers’ compensation claim.