Law Offices of David G. Arganian, Seattle, WA

Popcorn Lung

There is a chemical used in popcorn to produce butter-like flavoring called diacetyl that can cause 'popcorn lung'. Popcorn lung is a disease that is extremely severe and can require a lung transplant.

Diacetyl has been approved for use by the FDA as a 'safe' flavor ingredient but when inhaled in large amounts it can be very dangerous.

In 2000, eight former employees of a popcorn plant in Jasper, Missouri, developed popcorn lung just from being involved in the production of microwave popcorn. In 2007, the first case of a consumer eating microwave popcorn and contracting popcorn lung was made public. Even though several former large scale users of diacetyl (i.e ConAgra Foods Inc., General Mills Inc. and the American Pop Corn Company) agreed to remove the chemical from their process, some recent reports (from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) suggest that diacetyl substitutes may still yield similar dangerous side effects.

According to The Associated Press, a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by Wayne Watson's (Denver based victim who developed Popcorn Lung) attorney claimed that the companies "failed to warn that preparing microwave popcorn in a microwave oven as intended and smelling the buttery aroma could expose the consumer to an inhalation hazard and a risk of lung injury."

The Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association of the United States had the following to say, "This new information ... suggests a possible association between inhaling the fumes from the preparation of several bags of heavily butter-flavored microwave popcorn each day when the butter flavor contains the flavor ingredient diacetyl and the development of the patient's severe respiratory illness…"

The official name of popcorn lung is bronchiolitis obliterans. This disease is often misdiagnosed as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, or pneumonia. Symptoms include any of the following: dry cough, shortness of breath, or wheezing.

If you feel that you may have been exposed to large amounts of this chemical or have developed popcorn lung, either through consumption or working around the chemical, it is important to contact your physician as soon as possible. You may also be entitled to legal compensation for your injuries. Contact a law firm that is both experienced and knowledgeable in this type of litigation.

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