Diacetyl is a butter-flavoring chemical used in manufacturing many food items, including microwave popcorn. After several microwave-popcorn workers were diagnosed with the severe lung disease bronchiolitis obliterans, researchers traced the problem to airborne diacetyl. Health advocates have been urging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to regulate diacetyl in order to protect food and flavoring workers, and several companies have removed diacetyl from their products or are in the process of doing so. There has been little research into the effects of diacetyl inhalation on consumers.
In September 2007, The Pump Handle was the first to publicize the report of a case of bronchiolitis obliterans in a microwave-popcorn consumer in the post “Popcorn Lung Coming to Your Kitchen? The FDA Doesn’t Want to Know” by David Michaels. (Dr. Michaels heads the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy, or SKAPP, which has been active on the diacetyl issue for years.)
Here are some of The Pump Handle’s most-visited posts on diacetyl; visit the Flavoring Workers’ Lung category archive for more.
2/12/10: Faces of diacetyl danger
1/5/10: Perils of butter flavorings, diacetyl substitutes
12/11/09: Diacetyl saga continues, still dangerous, substitutes may be too
7/17/09: OSHA, SBREFA and diacetyl
4/7/09: Popcorn Lung Becomes Butterscotch Lung
3/17/09: OSHA’s New Direction on Diacetyl
12/16/08: OSHA Sends Diacetyl Document to OMB
9/10/08: Popcorn Lawsuits and a Weak Regulatory System
3/20/08: Diacetyl in Kitchens: Investigations Underway
2/27/08: Diacetyl Still Around, Still a Problem
1/15/08: Diacetyl in Kitchens: Unions and Lawmakers Push for Action
11/8/07: EPA Microwave Popcorn Emissions Study Finally Published
9/28/07: If Obliterated Lungs are Not a Grave Danger, What Is?
9/26/07: Bipartisan House Passes Popcorn Workers Lung Legislation
9/25/07: Is OSHA Trying to Snooker Congress?
9/12/07: Popcorn Lung Media Roundup
9/7/07: Unions and Industry Agree: Time for an OSHA Diacetyl Standard
9/4/07: Popcorn Lung Coming to Your Kitchen? The FDA Doesn’t Want to Know
6/13/07: Congress May Force OSHA to Do Its Job (on Diacetyl at least)
5/29/07: Does Orville Redenbacher Know if Popping Popcorn at Home is Dangerous?
5/8/07: Eight Months Later, Will FDA Finally Consider Diacetyl’s Safety?
5/7/07: Preventing Flavor Workers’ Lung Disease: A Tale of Two Regulatory Systems
4/30/07: Flavor Workers’ Lung Disease: What Do We Know and What Should Be Done?
4/25/07: New York Times Covers OSHA Inaction on Diacetyl and Other Hazards
4/24/07: OSHA Tries to Look Busy
4/10/07: Public Health Hardball: More Lessons From California
1/15/07: Artificial Butter Flavor Lung Disease – More Cases Reported