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Workers Exposed To Diacetyl Suffer From Popcorn Lung

By Timothy Horowitz

Bronchiolitis obliterans, which is commonly known as “popcorn lung,” is caused by inhaling the chemical diacetyl. Diacetyl is a chemical that is used to create the artificial butter flavor in microwave popcorn. It is seen more in microwave popcorn factory workers than it is in popcorn consumers. The disease is irreversible and it can cause the permanent hardening and break down of the bronchioles in the lungs. The only treatment for the disease is to have a lung transplant.

One of the flavoring ingredients in most microwaveable bags of popcorn, the chemical diacetyl has been implicated in causing bronchiolitis obliterans. This naturally-occurring chemical gives butter its unique taste, but too much pure diacetyl ingested through the nose and mouth may interact negatively with lung tissue.

The common title of ‘Popcorn Lung Disease’ might not sound very threatening, but it’s actually irreversible. The only possible solution is to get a lung transplant, a process that can be ultimately difficult because of the time involved and the low chances of finding a donor.

Diacetyl occurs naturally in many foods, such as cheese, butter, and some wines.

Many food manufacturers are moving away from diacetyl in favor pentanedione, which has been shown to cause even more lung damage as a result of overexposure. In 2000, a study by NIOSH determined that factory workers were more likely to suffer chronic lung and airway disorders because of their constant exposure to diacetyl, which has prompted a recent increase in lawsuits.

There are a number of conditions that may lead to bronchiolitis obliterans. Inhalation of chemical fumes including chlorine, nitric oxide, sulfur dioxide or ammonia can cause inflammation. The chemical diacetyl, which has previously been commonly used in artificial butter flavoring for popcorn, has been recently attributed with causing bronchiolitis obliterans in the factory workers who were exposed to the smell on a daily basis.

If you or a loved one has suffered chronic lung illnesses due to the chemical dicetyl, due to the consumption of buttered popcorn, please visit our web site for additional information regarding Popcorn Lung.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Horowitz, Timothy "Workers Exposed To Diacetyl Suffer From Popcorn Lung." Workers Exposed To Diacetyl Suffer From Popcorn Lung. 2 Jul. 2010. 3 Aug 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Horowitz, T (2010, July 2). Workers Exposed To Diacetyl Suffer From Popcorn Lung. Retrieved August 3, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Horowitz, Timothy "Workers Exposed To Diacetyl Suffer From Popcorn Lung"

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