What do some e-cigarette users and coffee workers have in common? Coughing, shortness of breath and irreversible lung damage. These are just a few of the early onset symptoms of bronchiolitis, the respiratory disease also known as “popcorn lung.” While its nickname might sound peculiar, it also carries a darker history.
Diacetyl is a chemical flavoring often used to replicate the tastes and textures of butter, butterscotch and caramel. Today, diacetyl is common in coffee production processes and within the liquids of certain e-cigarettes.
While the U.S. Food and Drug administration considers the flavoring safe to eat, inhaling vaporized diacetyl is detrimental to health. In fact, it can even be deadly. A 2018 Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine mortality analysis found that 27 percent of deaths in a population of microwave popcorn factory workers were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified coffee plantations and roasting facilities as spaces for lethal diacetyl vapor exposure. Medical and legal professionals across the country have cited this as a major cause for concern. Jacob Plattenberger, head of diacetyl litigation at TorHoerman Law, said many workers are unaware of the risks.
“This is dangerous because many factory workers have no idea that they’re being exposed to unsafe vapors until the symptoms and damage become irreversible,” Plattenberger said.
TorHoerman Law is working to bring awareness of this dangerous chemical and to seek justice for individuals who might have already been affected. Factory workers in any industry that utilize diacetyl in its vaporized form could be at risk. This includes those in food production factories, coffee roasteries and production facilities, bakeries and more.
Bronchiolitis, specifically when caused by diacetyl exposure, is a progressive disease. This means that the more someone is exposed, the worse the symptoms and irreparable damage will be. There is also a genetic component, similar to other types of lung cancers. Individuals who are genetically predisposed might experience quicker, more severe reactions to diacetyl vapor exposure.
“The symptoms often start out rather mild,” Plattenberger said. “Victims typically notice a dry cough or shortness of breath when exercising and don’t think much of it. With prolonged exposure, these symptoms steadily become worse. Many workers don’t realize it’s an issue until their lungs are severely damaged.”
By now, many people have been warned about the diacetyl risks associated with working in a popcorn factory or using e-cigarettes. However, Plattenberger fears that the effects of exposure to diacetyl vapors within coffee plantations and roasteries will be even more prolific, leading to a surge in coffee worker lung disease.
Workers who believe they have been exposed to diacetyl vapor should contact a doctor. Mention concerns about bronchiolitis and any potential symptoms. He or she will order a chest X-ray or CT scan to diagnose popcorn lung or other respiratory diseases. Be sure to keep detailed records of any doctor visits, medical procedures and prescribed treatments and medications.
TorHoerman Law has represented factory workers nationwide who have been affected by diacetyl exposure. To date, Plattenberger and his team have won client settlements and verdicts of more than $5 billion with new litigations beginning every week.
Company Name: TorHoerman Law
Contact Person: Jacob Plattenberger
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Country: United States