Diacetyl is a hazardous chemical used in manufacturing facilities throughout the United States. Diacetyl exposure is linked to several serious lung diseases and workers from multiple industries are filing lawsuits at this time.
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For more than 10 years, the flavoring chemical diacetyl has been the subject of a growing number of national lawsuits arising from the 2000 discovery of respiratory disease in nine workers at a Missouri microwave popcorn processing plant. Dubbed “popcorn lung,” this respiratory disease arising from diacetyl exposure caused workers to exhibit chest symptoms including shortness of breath and poor lung function. These employees were subsequently diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, a non-reversible respiratory disease that results in the scarring of the bronchioles.
Diacetyl is a flavoring agent that is considered safe to eat but potentially hazardous when inhaled. It is used to produce a variety of flavors in foods, particularly dairy flavors like butter and cheese, and brown flavors like caramel and butterscotch. It is also one of the several chemicals used to flavor some of the 7,000 varieties of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) currently on the market. Diacetyl occurs naturally in some foods, such as dairy products, beer, and wine.
Due to its potential for causing respiratory illness, diacetyl has been largely phased out of the artificial flavoring industry and replaced with acetyl propionyl (AP). Although AP (like diacetyl) is approved for use in food, some researchers have raised questions about the potential toxicity of AP inhalation due to structural similarities between the two chemicals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has expressed concern that AP and diacetyl could be equally toxic.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that it is safe to consume diacetyl in trace amounts, it is important to note that the FDA and the CDC do not state that it is safe to heat and inhale. Ingesting small quantities of Diacetyl is very different than heating and inhaling the toxic chemical.
Inhaling Diacetyl can lead to scar tissue build-up in the lungs, blocking airflow and potentially damaging the lungs permanently. Although diacetyl affects mainly the lungs, can also affect the eyes, nose, throat, and skin gradually or suddenly, depending on the degree of exposure.
There is little research currently available on the potential adverse health effects associated with inhaling the flavorings in e-liquids, but attention is now turning to the damage that the diacetyl used to flavor e-cigarettes is doing to consumers, particularly younger ones who may be more susceptible to toxic exposure.
There are currently no requirements for manufacturers to indicate whether eliquids contain diacetyl or AP, and the only requirement is that ENDS products must contain a nicotine warning statement. There also are no applicable standards for the composition of eliquids, including no governmental recommendations or restrictions on diacetyl and AP levels in eliquids.
Bronchiolitis obliterans is an extremely serious, non-reversible, and obstructive lung disease in which the bronchioles of the lungs are blocked by the growth of fibrous tissue. This causes inflammation in the lungs and results in scarring and hardening of the tissue and obstruction of the airway. Considered to be a “flavorings-related” condition, bronchiolitis obliterans is caused by the inhalation of airborne diacetyl.
Bronchiolitis obliterans is often referred to in the media as “Popcorn Lung” because it was first widely reported in workers in popcorn manufacturing plants. This name is now a misnomer since bronchiolitis obliterans has also been diagnosed in workers of coffee plants, animal feed plants, bakeries, candy factories, tortilla manufacturers and other facilities using flavorings in the production of the end product.
Bronchiolitis obliterans is difficult to diagnose and to treat. Chest x-rays and CT scans are part of the diagnostic process, but neither is conclusive. Open lung biopsy is required in order to make a definitive diagnosis, meaning that a portion of the lung must be removed and studied.
Although bronchiolitis obliterans is not reversible, there are treatment options. Steroids can help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms, and studies have shown that inhaled cyclosporine can increase the amount of air that is exhaled, which can decrease trapped air and provide better lung capacity to bronchiolitis obliterans victims.
The following diagnoses show similar symptoms of bronchiolitis obliterans and can lead to a misdiagnosis. If you or a loved one has worked in the manufacturing of food or flavoring products and you have been diagnosed with one of the following diseases, it is worth investigating to see if exposure occurred at work. Consider the following lung diseases:
Primary Pulmonary Hypertension
Primary Arterial Hypertension
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
Pulmonary Vascular Disease
Since the discovery of popcorn lung, lawsuits have been filed by microwave popcorn processing workers, employees of flavoring companies who used diacetyl as an ingredient, and consumers who claim to have developed a respiratory disease as a result of cooking and eating microwave popcorn in their homes.
Recent cases allege harm to workers in coffee processing facilities. Studies have shown that diacetyl and acetyl propionyl are naturally processed and released during the coffee roasting process, and the subsequent grinding of roasted coffee releases significant concentrations of these chemicals into the air.
There have been at least two lawsuits filed against ecigarette manufacturers alleging failure to disclose the presence of diacetyl/AP in e-liquids and to warn of their associated risks. Both were putative class actions alleging consumer fraudbased claims filed in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California.
Did you or do you currently work in one of the following industries?
Did you then develop any of these Lung Diseases?
Other Lung Diseases
If you answered yes to these two questions you should look into your legal rights. Fill out our Secure Diacetyl Instant Case Evaluation if you believe you may need to protect your legal rights.
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Knutson, S. A. (2016, August 18). The evolution of diacetyl-related litigation: Part 1. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/829286/the-evolution-of-diacetyl-related-litigation-part-1
Knutson, S. A. (2016, August 19). The evolution of diacetyl-related litigation: Part 2. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/foodbeverage/articles/829289/the-evolution-of-diacetyl-related-litigation-part-2
McConnell, M. (2015, September 30). What is diacetyl? is there diacetyl in my eliquid? Retrieved from http://www.electroniccigaretteconsumerreviews.com/what-is-diacetyl-is-there-diacetyl-in-my-eliquid/