Popcorn Lung: Information on Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatments
Posted on Sunday, February 7th, 2021 at 8:05 pm
In today’s world, there is a seemingly endless barrage of products containing chemicals that pose significant health risks. As modern consumers, we all need to be aware of what we are buying and what it is made of.
One such chemical that is particularly troublesome is diacetyl. Diacetyl is an artificial flavoring chemical used in a variety of products—from caramel syrup to soda to popcorn. While diacetyl has been found generally safe to consume by government regulators like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it can cause serious harm when it is inhaled.
The harmful effects of breathing in diacetyl were first discovered when workers at microwave popcorn factories began developing lung problems at higher rates than the general public. In particular, workers were known to develop a condition called bronchiolitis obliterans.
Bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as “popcorn lung,” is a serious health condition and can occur within several weeks of exposure to diacetyl and a number of other man-made chemicals.
Some of bronchiolitis obliterans symptoms include:
- A nagging dry cough
- Labored breathing
- Chest pain
The above symptoms and others like them regularly occur in those that have popcorn lung and can vary in severity. While some might be able to continue their normal daily routine, others will find the disease debilitating.
Diagnosis of Popcorn Lung
If you think you have been exposed to diacetyl and are experiencing any or all of the symptoms associated with it, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. In order to diagnose your condition, your doctor may ask about your interaction with diacetyl and any other similar chemicals.
He or she might also decide to order a CT or x-ray of your chest to get a better idea of what is going on with your lungs. In some cases, a biopsy may be necessary to examine lung tissue firsthand.
Treatment of Popcorn Lung
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for popcorn lung and damage to your lungs can continue to get worse as time goes on. However, there are several things your doctor might do to alleviate your symptoms and mitigate harm as much as possible. For example, your doctor may:
- Advise you to stay away from the chemicals that caused your condition
- Administer steroids or antibiotics to reduce swelling
- Prescribe various drugs that slow your immune system and keep your lungs from sustaining further damage
Aside from the above options, your doctor might also suggest you take over the counter medications to help you with your cough and to allow you to breathe more easily.
While it makes sense to call bronchiolitis obliterans “popcorn lung” given that it is from the flavoring of microwave popcorn that the first cases were reported, in some ways the name is actually a bit outdated. For one, because of the bad press and legal action taken against them, some popcorn makers have sought alternatives to diacetyl for flavoring their products.
Instead, a better name today for bronchiolitis obliterans might be e-cigarette lung. The reason for this is because many e-cigarette makers use diacetyl and other harmful chemicals in flavoring their cigarettes. What makes matters worse, is that while microwave popcorn was mainly eaten, the diacetyl contained in e-cigarettes is mainly inhaled.
The good news is that hospital visits for e-cigarette smokers related to lung problems seem to be on the decline. However, if you have experienced any of the symptoms of bronchiolitis obliterans or have been diagnosed with it and believe your case is the result of negligence on the part of a company that sold a harmful product, you should contact a personal injury lawyer immediately.