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September 06, 2007

Popcorn Lovers, Flee For Your Lives

A pulmonary specialist has diagnosed the first case of a consumer with bronchiolitis obliterans, more commonly known as "popcorn workers' lung." The rare and life-threatening disease has been known to affect factory workers with long-term exposure to chemical flavorings, including diacetyl, the flavoring used to give microwaveable popcorn its buttery taste.

Although she notes that it is difficult to draw causal connections based on only one case, she claims that there is no other explanation for her patient's illness except his daily popcorn habit. Apparently, he loved the smell so much that twice-nightly he would inhale the fumes from the just opened bag.

I'm sorry he's sick, but come on, people. When you open a bag of anything, including your favorite Doritos flavor but especially something with visible fumes, point it away from your head. The chemicals, debris, and other microscopic detritus that will be expelled whenever you open a sealed bag can cause all kinds of avoidable maladies, from acne to lung irritation. This is common sense.

There's probably no reason to avoid microwaving popcorn in your kitchen yet, and it will increasingly be a moot point in the next year as popcorn manufacturers phase out diacetyl use. However...

Rose said she is concerned that the high levels of fumes measured at Watson’s home could be present anytime consumers microwave popcorn, and that these high levels — and not just the cumulative effect of exposures in the factory — could be a factor in causing the disease.

The plaintiffs bar thanks you, Dr. Rose. Our check will be in the mail.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 03:15 PM

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