Toxin name: Diacetyl
Products containing toxin:
• Microwave Popcorn
• Potato Chips
• Artificial Butter
• Beer and Wine
Manufacturer(s): All major food manufacturers
Approved uses: Commonly found in wine and beer as a result of fermentation, added to microwave popcorn and other products to create an artificial butter flavor and texture.
Common side effects:
Has been found to cause bronchiolitis obliterans, a serious degenerative lung disease among factory workers who are exposed to a large volume of diacetyl on a daily basis. There is no danger in merely consuming products that contain diacetyl.
Popcorn Lung (sometimes referred to as Popcorn Workers Lung) is a common name for the lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans, when linked with exposure to the chemical compound Diacetyl. Prolonged airborne exposure to Diacetyl has been linked to the onset of bronchiolitis obliterans in otherwise healthy workers in several factories that manufacture microwave popcorn, thus the name popcorn lung. The disease itself occurs when a patient’s bronchioles (small airway passages in the lungs) are blocked by granulation tissue (a type of scar tissue). This occurs very rarely in lung transplant rejections, and more commonly as a result of noxious gas exposure in occupational settings, such as exposure to Diacetyl in a popcorn factory. The symptoms of Diacetyl-induced bronchiolitis obliterans can closely resemble those of asthma, pneumonia, emphysema or bronchitis, manifesting first in a severe shortness of breath and a dry cough. There is no known cure for bronchiolitis obliterans, the condition is irreversible and in some severe cases treatment can require a lung transplant.
Several incidents have prompted government action on the subject, such as on July 19, 2005 when jurors awarded a popcorn plant worker in Missouri $2.7 million for his claim of Diacetyl-induced respiratory problems. On July 26, 2006, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers petitioned the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to promulgate an emergency temporary standard to protect workers from the deleterious health effects of inhaling Diacetyl vapors. The petition was followed by a letter of support signed by more than thirty prominent scientists. The matter is under consideration. In February 2007, California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber introduced a bill to ban Diacetyl in the workplace by 2010.