Coffee factory workers have filed a major lawsuit against companies associated with DISTANT LANDS COFFEE saying they suffered severe lung damage from exposure to diacetyl, a flavoring chemical. The chemical is known to cause permanent lung disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans which is irreversible as a result of scarring and inflmmation of the bronchioles of the lung, the small airways. It results in diminished lung capacity and a lack of oxygen. The damage is more commonly known as “popcorn lung” since it is most frequently seen among factory workers where microwave popcorn is manufactured since the chemical was used as the butter flavoring. The microave popcorn industry rejected the additive once links to the disorder became widely recognized. More than 300 diacetyl lung disase lawsuits have been filed
The United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has suggested diacetyl, when used in artificial butter flavoring (as used in many consumer foods), may be hazardous when heated and inhaled over a long period.Workers in several factories that manufacture artificial butter flavoring have been diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare and serious disease of the lungs. The cases found have been mainly in young, healthy, nonsmoking males. Lung transplantation is the only known cure for bronchiolitis obliterans.While several authorities have called the disease “popcorn worker’s lung”, a more accurate term suggested by other doctors may be more appropriate, since the disease can occur in any industry working with diacetyl: diacetyl-induced bronchiolitis obliterans. On July 26, 2006, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers petitioned the U.S. OSHA 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 30 prominent scientists. The matter is under consideration. On 21 January 2009, OSHA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for regulating exposure to diacetyl.The notice requests respondents to provide input regarding adverse health effects, methods to evaluate and monitor exposure, the training of workers. That notice also solicited input regarding exposure and health effects of acetoin, acetaldehyde, acetic acid and furfural. 2010 OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin and companion Worker Alert recommend employers use safety measures to avoid exposing employees to the potentially deadly effects of butter flavorings and other flavoring substances containing diacetyl or its substitutes nationwide with most coming from employees of popcorn manufacturers.