Bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS) is a form of chronic lung dysfunction in which the lungs deteriorate, and cause a myriad of life-threatening symptoms. The deterioration in pulmonary function is generally irreversible and progresses despite therapy. No effective treatment has yet been established.
First recognized in the 1980s, BOS remains a pervasive illness with devastating consequences. Some causes have been identified. The most common risk factors for bronchiolitis obliterans are working conditions that expose employees to dangerous chemicals.
Joe Lyon is a highly rated Cincinnati personal injury Attorney and catastrophic injury lawyer representing plaintiffs nationwide in a wide variety of civil litigation claims.
Exposure to diacetyl production appears to be responsible for causing bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome in chemical process workers.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the flavoring industry have warned workers about the specific chemical diacetyl because of the association between inhaling this chemical and debilitating respiratory diseases.
BOS has been termed “Popcorn Lung” because it first appeared in workers who inhaled artificial butter flavor in microwave popcorn manufacturing facilities.
The CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and others have reported that exposure to diacetyl causes not only bronchiolitis obliterans, but other chronic lung diseases, such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis, granulomatosus disease, emphysema, asthma and interstitial lung disease.
The chemical has been removed from most consumables in the United States.
In May 2000, an occupational medicine physician reported eight cases of fixed obstructive lung disease in former workers of a microwave popcorn factory. All eight had a respiratory illness resembling bronchiolitis obliterans, and had worked at the same popcorn factory in durations ranging from 8 months to 9 years.
NIOSH evaluated the factory for respiratory hazards to workers, and concluded that workers exposed to flavorings at microwave popcorn factories are at risk for developing lung diseases.
Workers at coffee processing facilities also may face the same occupational hazard. NIOSH investigators published a report in 2013 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine about a health hazard evaluation at a coffee processing facility. Five former workers at a coffee processing facility that roasted, ground, and flavored coffee developed obliterative bronchiolitis.
A 2015 study, conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health, found diacetyl in more than 75 percent of flavored electronic cigarettes and refill liquids tested by researchers.
The liquids contained diacetyl, acetoin, and 2,3-pentanedione—each a flavoring compound considered a respiratory hazard in the workplace by the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association.
Lung transplants represent a significant cause of BO syndrome. More than 50 percent of patients surviving to 5 years after a lung transplant will develop BOS.
A few other causes have been identified and include:
Bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome usually causes a dry cough and shortness of breath, especially on exertion, two to eight weeks after toxic fume exposure. Other symptoms may include the following:
• Shortness of breath
• A bluish appearance of the skin (from lack of oxygen)
• Crackling or rattling sounds heard in the lungs
• Ribs that appear sunken during attempts to inhale
• Fast breathing
• Whooping cough
The symptoms of BOS can occur two weeks to a little over a month after exposure to chemicals. A lung infection can take several months to several years to produce symptoms.
After overexposure to noxious gases and chemical vapors, bronchiolitis likely affects many more workers than those with an acute presentation. Many cases remain undiagnosed because no obvious symptom points to a cause of lung injury.
However, imaging tests (CT scan of chest) and pulmonary function tests can help detect bronchiolitis obliterans. A surgical lung biopsy is considered the most definitive way to diagnose the disease.
Treatment is urgent. Severe cases can lead to death if left untreated.
In 2009, a federal jury in Iowa awarded $7.5 million to a former worker in a microwavable popcorn facility. The worker’s attorneys said the flavoring ingredients caused his health problems.
A number of consumers have sued other microwave popcorn manufacturers, claiming chemicals in the popcorn flavoring lead to lung disease.
A Denver man, for example, won a $7.2 million verdict against Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., The Kroger Co. and Dillon Companies Inc., after developing BOS after claiming he consumed microwavable popcorn for years. The man and his lawyers sued the popcorn maker and supermarkets, claiming the companies never warned consumers that diacetyl was dangerous.
Any former worker, or consumer of products that contains these dangerous chemicals may have a claim against a company for injury and damage as a result of exposure. Contact an experienced attorney for legal assistance.
If you or a loved one suffered from Bronchiolitis Obliterans and have questions about the root cause and the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care, contact The Lyon Firm (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions