Popcorn and popcorn flavoring companies have paid out over $100 million to factory workers and consumers afflicted with a rare respiratory disease linked to toxic fumes in microwave popcorn.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have run startling investigations, which may lead even more employees to come forward with cases of Bronchiolitis Obliterans, often referred to as Popcorn Lung.
Bronchiolitis Obliterans is a rare lung condition, which begins with "flu-like symptoms, including fever, malaise, fatigue and cough. The cough may be persistent and troubling. There is a shortness of breath with exertion and weight loss occurs in about half of patients."
The condition became known as 'Popcorn Lung' after several popcorn factory employees were diagnosed with the condition in 2000. Further investigation revealed over-exposure to the chemical fumes of a flavoring agent (2,3-butanedione or diacetyl) was the likely source. For those severely-afflicted employees, the damage was so profound and permanent, they required lung transplants to survive.
Though many popcorn companies have since banned diacetyl from their ingredient list, concerns remain high that replacement flavoring agents may contain equally toxic fumes, which may lead to potentially deadly respiratory conditions or pulmonary disease.
OSHA warns, popcorn factory "employees may be exposed to flavorings in the form of vapors, dusts, or sprays. There are many different types of flavorings and most have not been tested for respiratory toxicity. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates food additives for safety when eaten, but it does not require testing by other routes of occupational exposure, such as inhalation. Research continues to determine if certain components or combinations of flavorings are associated with pulmonary disease."
What Legal and Medical Steps Should Popcorn Factory Employees Take?
Employees who have been in prolonged contact with popcorn fumes should monitor their health carefully with their doctor, specifically informing their care providers of their increased risk for respiratory conditions, including Pulmonary Disease and Bronchiolitis Obliterans. As a complete lung transplant is the only cure in severe cases, early diagnosis is critical.
If you or a family member are experiencing respiratory troubles after prolonged exposure to popcorn fumes, seek an attorney experienced in both workers' compensation and personal injury without delay. Should a toxic work environment be found responsible for lung damage, employees are almost certainly entitled to workers' compensation benefits by law. Should the company be found to have knowingly used toxic chemicals previously established as hazardous without properly warning employees or following OSHA safety regulations, additional claims may be filed with the employer. Should an outside flavoring company have been responsible for the toxic chemicals, further claims may be filed against the flavoring company for all injuries and deaths that occurred as a consequence. The complexity and magnitude of these claims necessitate the need for an experienced personal injury and workers' compensation firm. Total financial recovery may be in the millions of dollars and would assist victims and families in the lifelong medical costs that come with these conditions. Perhaps most importantly, these claims serve to save the lives and health of countless other employees by demanding popcorn and flavoring companies finally make employee safety and health their first priority.
The Murray Law Firm has extensive experience in protecting employees injured by catastrophic environmental hazards, such as this, and we offer our legal expertise to all popcorn factory employees and their families.
If you are in need of additional legal information on Popcorn Lung and the dangers of prolonged exposure to hazardous popcorn fumes, please contact us toll free at 888.842.1616,