Flavored Coffee Beans & Microwave Popcorn Related to Deadly Lung Disease in Workers

A new report finds that cases of obliterative bronchiolitis in two workers are linked to a Texas coffee-processing company. Bronchiolitis obliterans is a rare and serious lung disease with no cure, except for a lung transplant. Both individuals worked at several jobs in the plant, including the “flavoring room.”

This is not the first instance of reported health issues of workers exposed to flavoring agents. Almost a decade ago, a report found that workers exposed to the flavoring agent in a microwave popcorn manufacturing plant were also diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans. The chemical they were exposed to was called, ketone.

Popcorn manufacturers quickly removed the chemical when a Denver resident developed the same disease after inhaling the agent several times a day from his favorite snack. However, some substitutes may pose similar risk of respiratory damage. A 2013 study found that workers at the microwave popcorn plants had a higher risk of respiratory disease mortality than the general population.

There is no specific federal workplace safety regulation designed to protect workers exposed to diacetyl or other flavoring agents.

Obama’s Labor Secretary Hilda Solis suggested that OSHA would move expeditiously to protect workers from this hazard.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) prepared a draft risk assessment and technical document to assist OSHA in developing a proposed rule. OSHA has not been on a fast track to address the hazard of these flavoring agents with a new regulation.

If you or a loved one has suffered from a serious illness as a result of toxic chemical exposure on the job, contact us today. We can help you receive the benefits you deserve.

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