ConAgra Employees May Have Faced Lung Disease from Popcorn Flavoring Diacetyl exposure

According to research conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), continued exposure to a toxic flavoring in the workplace called diacetyl may lead to a serious lung condition called bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS).

The artificial flavoring chemical diacetyl has been used in microwave popcorn, flavored coffee, and other food products. Several studies have now connected diacetyl to bronchiolitis obliterans, sometimes known as “popcorn lung.”

Employees at ConAgra and other popcorn producers, working in production and packaging areas, are at risk of inhaling dangerous chemicals. Food flavoring agents like diacetyl are chemical additives in popcorns and coffees meant to enhance a flavor, but may expose ConAgra plant workers to toxins for long periods of time.

Depending on the specific plant process, ConAgra production workers may be exposed to hazardous flavorings like diacetyl in the form of vapors, dusts, or fumes.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the flavoring industry are now clear on warning for employers and workers about diacetyl because of a potential danger of inhaling this chemical and developing respiratory illnesses.

Popcorn lung is a rare medical condition that damages the bronchioles, the lung’s smallest airways. With more and more exposure and inhalation, inflammation associated with BOS causes lung tissues and airways to narrow and scar, causing breathing difficulties.

Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Ohio personal injury lawyer representing plaintiffs nationwide in a wide variety of consumer product liability and workplace injury claims.

ConAgra Popcorn Toxic Food Flavoring

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  • Jiffy Pop

ConAgra Workers at Risk of Illness

Any ConAgra employee working with artificial flavorings at the workplace may risk heavy exposure to toxins. Bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome may initially cause a mild dry cough and develop into a continual shortness of breath as soon as two weeks after the first heavy exposure. The lung disease was called “Popcorn Lung” after it was seen in several workers clusters in workers who inhaled  artificial flavorings in microwave popcorn facilities like ConAgra.

Popcorn lung is also known as obliterative bronchiolitis, bronchiolitis obliterans, or constrictive bronchiolitis. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has warned that long-term exposure to diacetyl not only causes bronchiolitis obliterans, but also other chronic lung diseases, such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis, granulomatosus disease, emphysema, and asthma.

Symptoms of Diacetyl Exposure

The symptoms of popcorn lung may be easy to overlook or mistaken for other lung diseases. People with other respiratory conditions like asthma may not be able to tell new symptoms apart from long-term conditions.

Symptoms typically occur within 2 to 8 weeks after exposure to a diacetyl and may worsen over weeks to months. People should seek immediate medical attention whenever breathing becomes difficult, or if they experience severe chest pain. Symptoms of diacetyl-related health conditions may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • A bluish appearance to the skin
  • Crackling or rattling sounds heard in the lungs
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Ribs that appear sunken during attempts to inhale
  • Rapid breathing
  • Whooping cough

The scarred lung tissue caused by popcorn lung is irreversible—there is no cure for BOS once it begins to constrict the airways. Once the dangers associated with diacetyl were discovered the majority of popcorn producers stopped using the chemical, but former employees may still suffer from this terrible occupational illness.

It is crucial to recognize symptoms early. As symptoms progress, the lung damage becomes more severe, and treatment becomes more challenging. However, there are treatment options to manage and reduce symptoms with the hope of limiting lung damage when possible.

The long-term outlook for individuals with bronchiolitis obliterans depends on the severity of the toxin exposure and how fast the disease progresses. Any ConAgra worker who is diagnosed with BOS should immediately leave the workplace and seek medical care and legal assistance.

If you or a loved one has developed a respiratory illness after working at a ConAgra production facility, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care in Ohio, contact The Lyon Firm at (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.