By GreatSchools Staff
The culprit? Artificial butter flavoring.
What could be wrong with popcorn? Well, as reported by a 2006 Health Hazard Evaluation Report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and a follow-up investigation in 2010, researchers have linked a chemical used in artificial butter flavoring — diacetyl — to a life-threatening lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS), also known as "popcorn workers lung." The condition has primarily affected workers at food flavoring plants, and recently, one worker suffering from BOS was awarded over $30 million for the damage done to his lungs as an employee. In 2007, the major popcorn makers removed diacetyl from their products, but as recently as last year, NIOSH found the replacements, which include diacetyl trimer and butter starter distillate, are just as dangerous. NIOSH, in collaboration with the Center for Disease Control, is still in the process of creating recommended exposure limits for diacetyl and its related substitutes.
What's more, the Environmental Protection Agency has found another thing to fear in microwave popcorn: perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Added to the bag's lining, PFOA has been shown to build up in the body over time, and the EPA and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) are still evaluating the human risk factor of the chemical. Manufacturers have agreed to phase out PFOA by 2015, but that’s a long way off.
Photo credit: Jeffry B.
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