Evaluation of Flavorings-Related Lung Disease Risk at Six Microwave Popcorn Plants


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Abstract

Objective:After investigating fixed airways obstruction in butter flavoring-exposed workers at a microwave popcorn plant, we sought to further characterize lung disease risk from airborne butter-flavoring chemicals.Methods:We analyzed data from medical and environmental surveys at six microwave popcorn plants (including the index plant).Results:Respiratory symptom and airways obstruction prevalences were higher in oil and flavorings mixers with longer work histories and in packaging-area workers near nonisolated tanks of oil and flavorings. Workers were affected at five plants, one with mixing-area exposure to diacetyl (a butter-flavoring chemical with known respiratory toxicity potential) as low as 0.02 ppm.Conclusions:Microwave popcorn workers at many plants are at risk for flavoring-related lung disease. Peak exposures may be hazardous even when ventilation maintains low average exposures. Respiratory protection and engineering controls are necessary to protect workers.

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