Non-Smokers Crippled by Lung Disease
This has nothing to do with tobacco or second-hand smoke. An artificial-flavoring chemical has been creating deadly side effects among workers who handle it. Victims can lose 80% of their breathing capacity.
Diacetyl is used as a flavoring chemical. (If that link doesn't work, try some of these.) If you’ve had artificial pineapple, pistachio, cappuccino, or key lime flavoring — among others — you’ve probably ingested it. So far this lung disease has only affected workers who handle the chemical, and not consumers who ingest it. But who knows?
Some of the workers disabled by this disease have been young and physically fit, in addition to being non-smokers. The disease is called bronchiolitis obliterans. It literally obliterates the airways of the lungs, resulting in drastically reduced breathing capacity.
The Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers have urged the Bush Administration to place emergency restrictions on workers’ exposure to diacetyl. In a letter to the Labor Secretary, they said “Although the precise number of workers already suffering respiratory effects from exposure to diacetyl is unknown, the potential magnitude of the problem is sizable. It is now time … to use the scientific evidence to protect American workers from debilitating lung disease.”
Diacetyl was first linked several years ago to several deaths and dozens of injuries among workers at microwave popcorn factories.
The artificial flavoring industry, like most American industries, is “self-policing.” A public health expert said “It’s terrific that industry wants to play a role in solving the problem, but it’s the responsibility of regulators to ensure that employers provide a safe workplace. It’s not a question of how honest you are, or how good you are. It’s that the financial relationship clouds your judgment. And Cal-OSHA is not there to watch the data being collected.”
One of the manufacturers of Diacetyl — a German conglomerate — has known of its deadly effects since the 1970s. And the American flavoring industry has known of the ill effects since 1985, according to internal documents.