Understanding Popcorn Lung | Scott Goodwin Law

Understanding Popcorn Lung

by / Friday, 01 November 2019 / Published in Personal Injury, Workplace Woes
Wooden bowl filled with popcorn on table

If you love popcorn, you know how irresistible the smell of buttered popcorn is when you walk into a movie theater or while you wait for a bag of popcorn to heat up in the microwave. Most people wouldn’t think there was anything particularly dangerous about the scent of microwave popcorn, but there is a condition known as “popcorn lung,” which is a lung illness linked to diacetyl, a chemical formerly used in microwave popcorn.

The term “popcorn lung” gained attention several years ago when some people who worked in factories that manufacture microwave popcorn developed bronchiolitis obliterans, which is a rare type of lung disease that does not have a cure, but has some treatment options. This condition causes damage and scarring to the bronchioles, making people have a difficult time breathing.

At the time, diacetyl was used in microwave popcorn to give it an artificially buttery flavor. It is also used in things like caramel and fruit drinks. When eaten, the FDA considers diacetyl safe, but it can be dangerous if inhaled. Because of the attention these cases of popcorn lung received, most manufacturers of microwave popcorn stopped using diacetyl as an ingredient. So if you enjoy having the occasional bag of microwave popcorn as a snack, don’t worry that enjoying its buttery smell could seriously damage your lungs.

Even though those cases of popcorn lung developing in people working in microwave popcorn manufacturing plants occurred over a decade ago, the condition has been getting renewed attention in recent years as illnesses caused by vaping have made headlines. While microwave popcorn manufacturers stopped using diacetyl in their products years ago, it may still be found in flavored e-cigarette products.

In one 2016 Harvard study, diacetyl was detected above the laboratory limit of detection in 39 out of 51 flavored e-cigarette products tested. According to The American Lung Association, e-cigarette companies are able to use diacetyl in their products, despite the fact that it is known that this chemical can cause serious harm when inhaled, because the FDA announced in 2017 that the requirement for e-cigarette companies to submit products for review would be delayed until 2022.

It’s important to note that inhaling diacetyl isn’t the only way to develop popcorn lung. Popcorn lung can also be caused by other chemicals like ammonia and chlorine. This condition can develop as a result of being exposed to large amounts of the chemicals that cause it, such as in workplace environments. If you’ve developed popcorn lung, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a personal injury lawyer. They will be able to help you understand what your legal options are and answer any questions you have about your case. At Goodwin & Scieszka, our lawyers handle a wide range of personal injury cases. Contact us today for help with your claim.